Signed by the Diamondbacks in 2004, Gerardo Parra made his major-league debut in 2009, just a week after his 22nd birthday. Since the start of that season, he has easily appeared in the most games of any Arizona player, his 787 ranking him 82 in front of Miguel Montero, and more than 200 ahead of third-placed Justin Upton. So, it's going to seem a strange Diamondbacks outfield going forward.
It's a little odd to remember that he wasn't always a regular part of the line-up. Through his first two seasons, while he played in 253 games, he managed only a total of 0.7 bWAR, and even in April 2011, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus was stating that Parra would never be an everyday corner outfielder. But that season, Parra blossomed in every aspect of his game: his OPS jumped by more than 100 points from the previous year, his 12 outfield assists was tied for the National League lead and, most remarkably of all, he stole 15 bases in 16 attempts. Yes, Virginia: there was a time when Parra was not a liability on the base-paths.
It was the season of the Parrazooka, although the term itself seems to date all the way back to September 2009. In its early days, the weapon was not as reliable as it would later become, with a tendency to fire balls from the outfield, over the cutoff man or all the way to the backstop. But it gradually became a finely tuned instrument of destruction, gunning down opposition baserunners with an accuracy closer to the latest generation of drones. In September 2011, Dan Strittmatter wrote one of his in-depth pieces, describing the incredible development of Parra, and it's worth reading the comments, for a reminder of how far Gerardo came that year.
However, that winter saw the signing of Jason Kubel, apparently an indication that the team did not have perfect faith that Parra's performance was more than a flash in the pan. It seemed like Gerardo might again be stuck in the role of fourth outfielder. If that was initially the plan, it hardly turned out to be the case, for one reason or another, with Parra appearing in eight fewer games than in 2011. and getting 63 fewer PAs. However, whether cause or effect, it's also true that his production did drop off in 2012, his OPS+ sliding from 113 to 95, and his base-running was also nowhere near as good (15 SB, 9 CS).
2013 was another matter. While his bat remained around league average (despite the bunt double above!), Parra's defense reached unprecedented heights. He put up 4.0 dWAR, the second-highest figure by any outfielder since the stat has been calculated. It also brought his finger-wag national recognition, after a May game against the Marlins in Florida [it was the one where Parra lead off the game with a homer, and we won 1-0]. A runner on second tried to score on a hit to right-field, and was easily gunned down at the plate by Parra. But what the highlight package doesn't show, is Gerardo's reaction. Of course, we at the 'Pit had been seeing something similar since 2011:
Parra may have outlasted Jason Kubel, but another winter meant another off-season acquisition for the corner outfield by Kevin Towers: Mark Trumbo. However, with Cody Ross out and/or dysfunctional, especially against right-handed pitching, Parra remained the everyday right-fielder, starting all but fourteen games there, and appearing, somewhere or other, in all but four. However, his offense was sharply down (OPS+ 86) and even his defense seemed less crisp, with concerns among some about his "diminished speed". With younger and cheaper alternatives in Ender Inciarte and David Peralta, today's trade wasn't much of a surprise.
But for Arizona fans, he will be most fondly remembered for his defense: for your appreciation, I offer up the Gold Glove highlight reels we created to honor his awards in both 2011 and 2013. And when you've finished that, watch Jody Jackson's piece below, from earlier this year, as she traveled to Chase with both Parra and Martin Prado, also traded today - a carpool which will never happen again...