Entering 2019, the Nationals’ outfield depth was a little thin. Juan Soto could’ve theoretically had a sophomore slump, Adam Eaton was an injury risk, Victor Robles was only a rookie, and Michael A. Taylor — need I say more?
Things went from bad to worse when Soto was sent to the 10-day injured list with back spasms in early May.
The patchwork solution was signing Gerardo Parra. But what was a backup outfielder who hit below .200 in over a month in San Francisco really going to fix?
From Parra’s perspective, this change could provide him with a new lease on life. In his second game with the Nationals, he hit a go-ahead grand slam against the Dodgers. When the team returned to D.C. later that week, he debuted a brand new walkup song — “Baby Shark,” his daughter’s favorite song. He likely had no idea that it would take the league by storm.
Parra was a grinder. When he first showed up, the Nationals had one healthy first baseman (Howie Kendrick). Shortly thereafter, Anthony Rendon was also sent to the IL, forcing Kendrick to play some third base. Parra saw time at all three outfield spots, as well as first base. He was also a strong hitter when he first arrived, but his influence was so much greater than that.
Parra completely changed the clubhouse culture, and he was particularly beneficial for Soto and Robles. The former Gold Glove outfielder boosted the accountability and attention to detail among the young outfielders, and his influence as a Latin American made him all the more relatable.
Even so, his immediate contributions dissipated toward the end of the season, and he will be 33 years old next season. It raises a very difficult question: Should Washington bring him back in 2020?
Can Parra return to his offensive heights from this season? And if not, can he at least remain as influential as he was in the dugout? That’s not a certainty, nor will he likely be as essential now that his message has already been relayed to the players.
He’ll be cheap, and — by all accounts — he wants to come back. But will he return?