Strange case of Gorekson Provar

to say so gorexson brovarA profession that was inconsistent would be an understatement. Signed by Rangers as a free international agent outside Curacao, he was incredibly impressive in the minors, reaching the major leagues, making his MLB debut at the age of 19 at the end of the 2012 season, and hitting a home run in his first major league at bat The lists of prospects are issued until 2013.

In 2013, Provar had an average performance in 85 games, registering only .234/.308/.336, 75W RC+. This might be disappointing based on the potential hype, but it was definitely understandable given that he was still only 20 years old. Unfortunately, shoulder injuries led to multiple surgeries that wiped out the 2014 and 2015 seasons. In 2016 and 2017, he was finally in good health but struggled in intermittent MLB playing time. Despite his success in minors, he only hit .227/.316/.315 in 112 games during those two campaigns, yielding a wRC+ production of 67.

In 2018, he finally got his long haul in the major leagues, making 146 appearances having never crossed 90 before. And that regularity seemed to work for him, coming in at 0.254/.335/.458 in wRC+ of 107, or 7% better than the league average. He also stole ten bases and added defensive variety, lining up on every ground position along with a short cameo in left field. Overall, it was worth 1.9 wins over substitution according to FanGraphs.

After being traded to Oakland, the pendulum swung the other way, making 11 fouls from second base and regressing at the plate to the .218/.301/.410 line, 90 wRC+. The A’s traded him away after that lone season, with the Padres on the receiving end. AJ Preller, who was with the Rangers when Profar was first signed, had by then become the general manager of San Diego.

Despite Provar’s mercurial career, it is clear that Brillier still believes in the previous higher possibility, which succeeded in the 2020 season that was cut short for the pandemic. Provar played 56 games in his 60-game season and earned his above-average hitting streak again, scoring .278/.343/.438. That was wRC+112, to which he added seven steals and a solid left-field defense (although not as solid anywhere else), resulting in a 1.2 fWAR buildup in that short period.

Although this was a small sample, it seemed to reaffirm Briller’s feeling for Provar, as the club re-signed him to free agency that winter. Much like Profar’s career, the deal was a bit unusual, as it was a three-year, $21 million contract that gave Profar a withdrawal after each season. It was a nice coup for him, giving him the advantage of being able to revert to free agency if he continued on a positive path, but giving him some safety in case he had another setback.

At this point, you can probably guess that his Jekyll-and-Hyde acting isn’t over yet. In 2021, the first year of that deal, he had another year, making .227/ .329/ .320 for the wRC+85 only. At the end of the campaign, he had the ability to pull off the two years and $14 million left on his deal but not surprisingly, he decided to stay on after that lukewarm season.

Here in 2022, Padres played 47 games, just over 29% of the season. How is Profar now? Following the scenario perfectly, he’s fine again, coming in at .222/.332/.401, with six Homer and four stealing. His WRC+ is 114 and it went live today with 1.2 fWAR.

There are still plenty of seasons left to change the picture here, and Profar is clearly not immune to quick narrative setbacks, but it looks like he might be ready to opt out in the final year of his contract. He will decide between a choice of a $7.5 million player for the year 2023 or a $1 million purchase. (There is also a mutual option of $10 million for 2024 with another $1 million purchase.) If he were to take the buyout, he would only need to find $6.5 million in free agency to break even.

For a player as unpredictable as Profar, there will certainly be reasons for teams to stay away from him. But there are also reasons to take the plunge. Despite all those twists and turns in his career, he’s still only 29 and won’t turn 30 until February. Even in those bad years, he always showed good discipline in the plates. From 2018 to present, it has a 10.1% walk rate and 14.8% strike rate. For context, the league-wide averages this year are currently 8.5% and 22.4%, which means it’s better than average in both cases. This year, he’s got his rates up to 14.1%, ahead of today’s game.

Despite some shaky defense in the past when he bounced on the diamond, he appears to have settled into a beautiful home on the left field, not playing anywhere else this season. 2020 was his significant debut on the left, as he scored 282 1/3 runs, followed by 257 1/3 last year and 367 this year, in today’s game. During those 3 seasons, his saved defensive points went from 3 in 2020, to 1 finally and 7 this year. His Ultimate Zone rating went from 2.0 to -0.9 to 2.4. Above average naysayers go from 0 to -2 to 0.

Although it is difficult to tell who the real Profar is, it seems reasonable that he could make more than $6.5 million in free agency, given his relative youth and inherent athleticism. Even in a bear year, he can still walk, steal some bases, hit a few homeowners, and can probably provide a mean corner defense. One would imagine that his agent Scott Borras would likely make this argument, based on his reputation. It might not be a bad argument either. Then again, if anyone can change the calculus in a hurry, it’s Provar.