In all of the hullabaloo over Roy Halladay (and now Cliff Lee), there has been a lot of grumbling recently about how foolhardy it would be to trade Manny Parra. I'm not so sure. In fact, if I may be contrary to a contrarian, I'm wondering if we're nearing Parra's peak value right now.
As Rambling Al pointed out, Parra is incredibly valuable in the majors right now: even if he only posted league-average stats, the fact that he doesn't even reach arbitration until 2011 makes him a tremendous value. (For an easy comparison, think of another trade with the Blue Jays, the one that netted us Dave Bush: four years of Dave Bush has given us about a 4.5-4.6 ERA, but only cost us a total of about $7 million --- about 1/6th of what we're paying Jeff Suppan for roughly the same stats.) If you can get a league-average starter for peanuts, you're doing extremely well.
Here's the thing: I don't think Manny Parra WILL ever put it together. I think he's going to go his whole career with one solid performance against a good team, followed by not making it out of the third inning against the Padres. Or, as Rage of Jared puts it:
Start after start goes by without a consistently good base, and yet we still believe in you after one of those "pretty good" performances where you show what it takes to be in the big leagues. Then you come out with 2 more crappy starts just to piss us off..like today. WHO GIVES UP 10 EARNED RUNS TO A MARLINS TIME WITH LESS FANS IN THE STANDS THEN THE MILWAUKEE IRON ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON? And the Iron don't even have Gravedigger Gilbert as a coach to draw in fans like the Bonecrushers. Unforgiveable.
It's nice to have home-grown talent on your major-league club, especially one who has overcome major injuries in the minors (did I mention the injuries?). And if we end up keeping him, the Brewers will benefit, as the money we're not spending on Parra can be spent elsewhere, like a centerfielder after Cameron leaves.
However...what if you can do more than that? Certainly Doug Melvin can sell the usefulness of someone like Parra to a team like the Blue Jays --- after all, if you're playing in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, you need to make every penny count. (You could argue that the Jays need Parra more than the Brewers need Halladay.) But, let's say you hype Parra's stuff, calling him a #1/#2 starter in the making. Tell them that, like a lot of left-handers, Parra just needed a little more time to figure things out. Point to his first two starts since coming back to the majors (13 IP, 1 ER) as indicative of where his future lies. (Note: Parra has home starts against the Braves and Nationals coming up before the trading deadline, making a nice run of 4 straight pre-deadline starts certainly possible.)
Frankly, I think we probably shouldn't make any trade that involves Gamel or Escobar. Our team is getting expensive fast, and we desperately need to start replacing our JJ Hardys with our Alcides Escobars. However, if I don't think Parra will ever reach his "ace potential," which I don't, I'd be very interested in some Parralchemy. What if Parra were valuable enough to be paired up with JJ Hardy instead of Escobar, plus your lower-echelon prospects, to land a top-flight starter? He's pitching well enough now, and going up against two teams that were below .500 as late as last week, that maybe you could sell a narrative of how Manny Parra is the next big thing.
One last item on Manny Parra. Consider this quote:
In the past the hard-throwing lefty has been prone to the big inning. His talent has never been in doubt, but his confidence wavered. He would give up a couple of hits, or walk a batter on a pitch that he felt was in the zone and the frustration would get to him.
It was easy to read in [his] body language that he had lost his focus. When that happened his mechanics broke down and his arm dragged behind his body, creating pitches that were up in the zone, a spot that a pitcher cannot miss in the big leagues....
The ERA may not seem all that impressive, but the fact that he has been able to keep his composure long enough to keep his team in the game is what is impressive.
While [he] has stuff that arguable make him a potential front of the rotation starter, his mind has kept him from achieving anything more than being a number five, or a long man in the bullpen. With his talent, and the way that he has been throwing, having him in the fifth spot in the rotation is a very good thing.
Although you certainly know better, doesn't this sound like a perfect encapsulation of Manny Parra? Of course it's not --- this is a review of our good buddy Jorge De La Rosa from earlier this month. In the 4 seasons since leaving Milwaukee, JDLR has posted ERAs of 5.18, 5.82, 4.92, and 4.95.
Do you have any reason to think Parra will fare better than JDLR (another tall young lefty)? I sure don't. I certainly wouldn't give Parra away, but if another teams thinks it can turn lead into gold, I certainly wouldn't stand in their way.