The Best Fourth Outfielder in Baseball?

The Best Fourth Outfielder in Baseball?

24-year old Gold Glove outfielder Gerardo Parra shifts to utility duty following the Arizona Diamondbacks' acquisition of Jason Kubel. Could Parra be the best fourth outfielder in all of baseball?

The Diamondbacks' acquisition of free agent left fielder Jason Kubel in late December obviously will cut into Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra's playing time, but that does not mean Parra has fallen out of favor.

Some believe Parra is an ideal fourth outfielder because of his glove, range, and cannon arm.  The D-backs have said they plan to use him at all three spots in 2012. Parra probably profiles best in one of the corners.  He was used almost exclusively in left field while winning his first Gold Glove last season, the first time the awards were given out to specific left, center, and right fielders.

Centerfielder Chris Young and right fielder Justin Upton started virtually every game last season -- Young played in 156 games, Upton in 159 -- so Parra's availability could give manager Kirk Gibson more options more options in case of a bad matchup or a minor injury.

Parra made 117 starts in left field after winning the job in spring training over first baseman/outfielder Xavier Nady, who could barely throw following his second Tommy John surgery. Parra became basically the only option in left when shortstop/outfielder Willie Bloomquist was needed in the infield after Stephen Drew suffered a season-ending fractured right ankle on July 20.

Young was bothered by a thumb injury for a good portion of the second half after landing awkwardly while making a catch. Young's hitting stroke was affected, but the D-backs had few alternatives in center field even after recalling Collin Cowgill, since traded to Oakland, following Drew's injury.

Parra led NL outfielders with 12 assists last season, one more than Los Angeles Dodgers Gold Glove center fielder Matt Kemp and Houston/Philadelphia right fielder Hunter Pence. Parra also took part in five double plays, tied with Kemp and Pittsburgh centerfielder Andrew McCutchen for the most in the NL.

Parra also could be used as a defensive replacement in left field if Gibson wants to relieve Kubel late in a game. Both hit left-handed, so there are no platoon possibilities in left, although both Young and Upton are right-handed hitters.


--The D-backs are exploring veteran pitching options for the back of their rotation in case their young prospects --including Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer, Patrick Corbin and Charles Brewer -- turn out to need more minor-league experience. If the D-backs go that route, they will turn to an inexpensive, short-term veteran, because they do not want to block their young pitchers or add to their hefty team payroll.

--Minor league free agent Ryan Budde was signed to a minor league contract with a spring training invitation to add catching depth to the organization. Budde spent small parts the 2007-10 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels before signing with the Toronto organization in 2011, where he hit .234 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 68 games. Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco and Konrad Schmidt are the catchers on the major league roster. Non-roster catchers Ed Easley and Rossmel Perez also have been invited to spring training.

--The D-backs signed Cuban émigré left-hander Alexander Carreras on Dec. 28, three days before he turned 22. "He has a fastball in the 90-93 (mph range) with a decent changeup," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said. Carreras, who received a $400,000 signing bonus, is likely to open the season in the starting rotation at Class A Visalia of the California League.

--Arizona signed 1B Mike Jacobs to a minor league deal.  Jacobs must serve all 50 games of a suspension for Human Growth Hormone usage before he can play for the Reno Aces.  He has a career slugging average of .475.

--Class A South Bend manager Mark Haley was hospitalized in his South Bend hometown after suffering what was diagnosed as a ruptured bowel. Haley, the recipient of the Joe Garagiola Jr. Award as the person of the year in the D-backs' organization in 2010, underwent back surgery earlier in the offseason. Haley spent the final several weeks of the 2011 regular season with the D-backs at the invitational of manager Kirk Gibson. It was Haley's first appearance in a major-league clubhouse in almost 30 years in professional baseball.

DIAMOND STAT: 20 -- non-roster invitees to spring training, including rotation candidates Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin.

QUOTABLE: "Creating competition and depth is good for us and any team. We can keep our outfielders better rested with four great options." -- D-backs president/CEO Derrick Hall, speaking about the addition of outfielder Jason Kubel in an online chat with fans.

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