Discussion: Manny Parra’s Future

After three seasons of up-and-down performance as a starting pitcher, Manny Parra will reach arbitration for the first time this winter.  Parra will get a significant raise from his current $440K contract in spite of his 5.29 ERA in 101 major league appearances (74 of them starts), and is probably looking at a 2011 contract in the neighborhood of $1MM.

There's a slight chance that the Brewers could non-tender Parra, a possibility raised by MLB.com's Adam McCalvy in the wake of Parra's recent demotion back to the bullpen.  Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said that any discussion of non-tendering the southpaw "are questions for the offseason" and first the team would have to "see how he does out there [in the bullpen]."

Milwaukee has already shown a lot of patience with Parra's development, McCalvy notes, and it would be odd for the team to cut him loose so early in his major league career.  Parra will only be 28 on Opening Day 2011, has a ridiculously unlucky career BABIP of .351 and has impressive minor league numbers — a 3.06 ERA and an 8.6 K/9 ratio in 109 career appearances on the farm.  Given all the question marks in the Milwaukee rotation heading into next season, it's probable that Parra will get another shot at winning a starting job.

What might be worth investigating, though, is whether Parra's future lies in the bullpen, not the rotation.  It may not seem like a proper use of Parra's value to convert him to relief pitching forever, but in the short-term, it could be an idea to help the left-hander find some consistency in the majors. 

Parra has a 4.10 ERA and 3.2 K/BB ratio in 27 career relief appearances, as compared to a 5.44 ERA and 1.71 K/BB ratio in 74 career starts.  As a reliever, he would seemingly improve on both of his major trouble spots as a starter — his control issues (a 4.5 career BB/9 rate) and his problems facing batters more than once through the order (a .708 OPS the first time he faces them as a starter, an .820 OPS the second time around and a .942 OPS the third time through).

John Axford has been a great story for the Brewers, but the Canadian right-hander came from far enough off the radar screen this season that he isn't a lock to duplicate this success as their closer in 2011.  If Parra did well enough in a relief role, he could even be groomed for the closer's job in the future.

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