D-backs avoid arbitration by signing Parra

PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks completed their offseason business by signing Gerardo Parra to a $2.35 million contract, avoiding arbitration with their last eligible player. It leaves manager Kirk Gibson in situation similar to what he faced last season — how to manage playing time with his four capable outfield starters.

Newcomer Cody Ross is expected to take over in right field, and Ross may play as much as the departed Justin Upton, inasmuch as he is the only right-handed hitter in the group that also includes Jason Kubel and Adam Eaton. At the same time, Gibson said when the Upton trade was announced that he also could see a scenario in which all four outfielders divided the approximately 1,800 at-bats at the three spots. 

The plan appears to include Eaton as the leadoff hitter and center fielder, although he has only one month of major league experience after a call-up last September, and the D-backs do not want to overload him.

Ross and Parra also can play center field. Ross started in center field for the Marlins in 2008-10, and he told the D-backs after signing his three-year, $26 million free agent contract that he preferred center to the corners. The D-backs said last season they saw Parra as more of a corner outfielder, although he did play a lot of center with his Venezuelan winter league team.

With the Parra signing, the D-backs will have an estimated $91 million payroll for the players on the 40-man roster. The only players unsigned are the ones with fewer than three years’ experience, whose salaries are basically set to a wage scale that starts at the league minimum of $490,000.
Parra won a Gold Glove in 2011 in left field, and the D-backs played him in the field quite a bit when they used one of their other outfielders as a DH in interleague games.

The D-backs have 10 interleague road games this season, which could provide another 40-45 plate appearances for outfielders, although new infielders Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske also profile in the DH spot. Their first interleague road series is at the New York Yankees from April 16-18.

Parra, 25, hit .273 with seven home runs and 36 RBI in 133 games last season, seeing extended time in center when Chris Young suffered a shoulder injury 10 days into the year. Parra tied his career high with 21 doubles and 15 stolen bases, and also had eight outfield assists, second on the team to Kubel’s 14. Parra has 37 assists since joining the D-backs in 2009, second among NL outfielders to San Francisco’s Hunter Pence, who has 47.

Parra, like newcomer Martin Prado and catcher Miguel Montero, is one of three D-backs on the Venezuela roster for the World Baseball Classic. Venezuela will play its first-round games March 7-10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.