Gerardo Parra began his career with the Diamondbacks organization after being signed as a 17 year old amateur free agent in 2004. The left handed-hitting Venezuelan import tore his way through Arizona's minor league ranks, hitting for a cumulative .314/.375/.440 line in 364 games, stealing 87 bases and hitting for extra bases in 7.3% of his plate appearances. He was named a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2009 season.
Parra made his major league debut on May 13th, 2009, starting in center field against the Cincinnati Reds. He would spend most of the next six seasons patrolling the Diamondbacks outfield. Parra never quite showed the same offensive prowess for Arizona that he displayed in the minor leagues, slashing just .276/.326/.395 during his time in the desert while serving mostly in a platoon role.
On the defensive side of the ball is where Parra made a name for himself early on his career. A versatile outfielder capable of manning all three spots, Parra's great instincts and strong arm helped earn him Gold Glove awards in 2011 and 2013. From 2009-2013, Parra's 76 Defensive Runs Saved ranked first among all MLB outfielders. He's thrown out 72 baserunners over the course of his 911 MLB outfield appearances.
Parra was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31st, 2014, in exchange for minor leaguers Anthony Banda and Mitch Haniger. He enjoyed a productive second half of the season despite the Brewers' collapse, and heading into 2015 the club viewed him as an excellent option as a fourth outfielder.
Circumstances quickly changed, however, and Parra found himself thrust into an everyday role due to a rash of injuries in the season's early going. Parra responded by putting together the best offensive half of baseball he's played to this point in his career: a .328/.369/.517 slash in an even 100 contests while slugging nine home runs among 38 extra base hits. With losses mounting, however, the Brewers sold high on Parra and his .372 BABIP at the trade deadline, sending him to Baltimore in exchange for RHP Zach Davies on July 31st. For his contributions in Milwaukee in 2015, you the readers voted Gerardo Parra as the 7th Most Valuable Brewer.
Unfortunately for Gerardo (and his agent), he did not bring his hot bat with him to the Orioles. He managed only an anemic .237/.268/.357 slash line in 55 games as Baltimore failed to make the playoffs. His poor finish took a lot of the shine off of his terrific first half in Milwaukee and he ended the year with a total of 0.4 fWAR and 1.0 rWAR.
Still, Parra posted an overall .291/.328/.452 slash line with a career high 14 home runs and 108 wRC+ this season, saving his best offensive season for his contract year. He'll hit the open market heading into his age 29 season, and won't have to worry about draft pick compensation attached to his name as players that are traded midseason are ineligible to receive a Qualifying Offer. To this point in his career, he's hit .277/.326/.404 with 56 home runs and 69 stolen bases in 3633 plate appearances. He's been valued at 10.2 fWAR and 12.5 rWAR over parts of seven seasons in the big leagues.
The outfield market figures to be headlined by the triumvirate of Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward. That leaves Parra among the middle-tier of free agents along with the likes of Dexter Fowler, Colby Rasmus, and Denard Span. Parra's age should be a helping factor in his case, as only five other outfielders on the market (including Heyward and Upton) will be playing 2016 at a younger age than Gerardo. His defensive reputation and versatility should also help, though he's graded out poorly over the last two seasons with -11 DRS.
There was a time when I thought Parra could be in line for a contract similar to the four year, $44 mil deal that Nick Markakis signed last offseason. Given his struggles in the second half, however, there's now little chance of that happening. Parra is a solid contact hitter that has consistently displayed below average power and patience, and his struggles against left handed pitching throughout his career mean he's probably best utilized in a platoon role. He's no longer an elite defender and should be used more often in the outfield corners than in center. These factors will probably inhibit some of his earning power.
It's been reported that there is mutual interest between the O's and Parra in a possible reunion, and Baltimore could certainly use the outfield help. The Mets, White Sox, and Giants could also be in the market for outfielders this winter. I'll hazard a guess and say that Gerardo Parra ends up signing a three year contract worth somewhere around $30 mil during the offseason. That would certainly represent a nice chunk of change for a player who has earned just under $15 mil cumulatively during his career.