Better Than Reed Johnson

So the Cubs quickly signed Reed Johnson, to the disappointment of many MetsToday readers who thought he would be an ideal RH-hitting outfield option. But the Cubs’ move could make someone available who is a better fit for the Mets:

Matt Murton.

Murton is only 26 years old, but already has three years of MLB experience — including 2006 campaign when he was a semi-regular. In 455 at-bats that season, he hit .297 with 13 HRs and 65 RBI. Not All-Star stats by any means, but encouraging for a 24-year-old given his first chance to start regularly. Last season, his ABs were cut in half due to the presence of Cliff Floyd.

This winter, the Cubs signed Japanese star Kosuke Fukudome to play right field, pushing Murton back to the bench — Alfonso Soriano will start in left and rookie Felix Pie in center. With the RH-hitting Reed Johnson added to the mix, Murton would appear to be the odd man out, and could be dealt.

Why would the Mets want Murton, a guy being pushed out by Reed Johnson? First of all, the Cubs needed a veteran centerfielder as insurance behind Pie — and Johnson can play CF while Murton can’t. Personally, I prefer Murton because of his youth, his ability to rake, and his very good strike zone judgment / ability to get on base.

That last point is why I’m hot on Murton and wasn’t so hot on Reed Johnson. As far as batting average and power numbers go, the two are very similar. But Johnson strikes out once every five times up and rarely walks — his OBP is tied strongly to his batting average. Murton, on the other hand, strikes out once every eight times to the plate, and takes his walks — his career OBP is .365. Murton also hits for slightly more power than Johnson, slugging .455 career to Johnson’s .410. Plus, Johnson is not getting any better, while Murton still can.

What would the Mets have to give up to get Murton? The price may not be too high. The Cubs have just lost their only lefty in the bullpen, Scott Eyre, to an injury, so they might be interested in, say, Scott Schoeneweis as a stopgap. Unlike others mentioned recently (Johnson, Juan Rivera, Marcus Thames, etc.), I think Matt Murton IS an upgrade over some of the current outfielders in the organization.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude March 25, 2008 at 3:05 pm
    I may have been the most vocal advocate for Reed Johnson joining the Mets, but I agree that Matt Murton is the more desirable of the two. The only reason I was trying to sell Johnson was because he was available for nothing, whereas we need to trade for Murton. If the price is Show for Murton, I’m all for it. But I tend to think that if the Tigers are holding our for Heilman for Thames, and the Angels want Niese or some other highly-touted starting pitcher prospect for Juan Rivera, then the Cubs are likely looking for the farm in exchange for Murton, considering he’s the best of the bunch. The closer we get to the start of the season, the more likely it seems that we’re going to see Pagan and Clark share LF duties until Moises returns. Or, should I say, IF he returns?

    I’m really starting to get the feeling we’re going to be seeing alot of low-scoring games this year, in which we’ll be on the short-end of more times than we’d like.

  2. Micalpalyn March 25, 2008 at 4:37 pm
    Actually I think the Cubs will get offers but may simply chose the best offer as they set their Roster.

    On a new note, Claudio Vargas was cut by the Brewers in a pretty stunning move. Given age/injury etc of El Duq (perhaps puttuing him on the DL/in the pen to open the season) Mike Pelfrey’s non-maturation (thus-far) and Ollie’s pending FA status could the Mets kick tires here?