In case you hadn’t heard, the Colorado Rockies have DFA’d Matt Murton to make room on the roster for reliever Juan Rincon. That sentence in itself tells you how desperate the Rockies are for pitching, and how much depth they have in the outfield. (this is the same team that allowed current Mets star Cory Sullivan to walk away).
But I’m not ready to agree with some of the thoughts getting thrown around the blogosphere — such as the suggestion that Murton is better than Jeff Francoeur or Ryan Church (though if you talk to Jerry Manuel, just about anyone is better than Church). I like Andrew Vazzano’s depiction better — that Murton would be a cheaper alternative to Jeff Francoeur next season.
Do I think Murton can be “better” than Francoeur or Church? Maybe, depending on what is meant by “better”. If you are a Beanehead, then no doubt you’d agree with the evaluations on Fangraphs. Ironically, it is the most recent quote regarding Murton on Fangraphs that bothers me:
For whatever reasons Murton has been stuck in Triple-A two years running and yesterday was designated for assignment to make room for Juan Rincon of all people.
Read that sentence again. If Matt Murton is so great, then why has he been cast off by four organizations in the past five years? How could the Rockies find journeyman reliever Juan Rincon — he of the 5.34 ERA — more valuable than Murton? More to the point, if Murton is that good a hitter, why have the Rockies chosen to put him on irrevocable waivers, rather than the .225-hitting Garret Atkins or the .253-hitting Ryan Spilborghs?
I’ve been watching Murton since his days in the Red Sox organization — mainly because one of my good friends is from Boston and gushed about him long before he was part of the Nomar Garciaparra trade. So I kept tabs on his minor league exploits, and noticed his Dan Murphy-like MLB debut (.321 in 51 games / 140 ABs in 2005). After Murton batted .297 / .365 / .444 with 13 HR and 61 RBI through 144 games in 2006 as a 24-year-old, I thought, wow, my pal was right — this kid can hit. Further, I was as stunned as anyone when the Cubs chose to give his roster spot to an aging Cliff Floyd in 2007. Sure, Murton’s power was a little light for a rightfielder, but weren’t they making up for that with decent homerun threats in centerfield (Jacque Jones), second base (Mark DeRosa) and behind the plate (Michael Barrett)? The fact he didn’t even make the Opening Day roster after putting up such strong numbers in the previous year was a head-scratcher.
After two years of being shuffled up and down between Chicago and the minors, Billy Beane came to the rescue, sending Rich Harden to Chicago for Murton and other highly touted prospects. This, it seemed, would be Murton’s big break — joining an organization that places great emphasis on his stat-friendly strengths, such as OBP, OPS, etc.
But it was not to be. Murton walked 42 times and posted a .290 average at the AAA level in ’08, and came to bat 31 times as an Athletic, hitting .100. He didn’t even garner a September call-up, and over the winter was traded to the Rockies for a fringe infield prospect named Corey Wimberly.
Again, I like Matt Murton, and I’d like to see the Mets grab him. He’s already accomplished more at the MLB level than Dan Murphy — who some people compare to Wade Boggs (but who compares more closely to Murton, ironically) — so it makes perfect sense to give Murton a chance to prove the Red Sox, Cubs, A’s, and Rockies wrong. Only two issues stand in the way: first, the fact that there are (miraculously) five teams with worse records than the Mets — so the Nationals, Padres, Reds, Pirates, and Diamondbacks can all claim Murton before the Mets get their chance. Secondly, the Mets have to be willing to put in a claim on Murton. Before you call it a “no brainer”, remember we never know what’s going on inside the Mets’ front office — and their decisions often defy logic. For example, 40-man roster spots are still being used by Oliver Perez and Johan Santana — both of whom should be on the 60-day rather than 15-day DL — as well as people like Andy Green and Carlos Muniz. And who knows, the Wilpons might not want to assume the remainder of his contract — even though it’s only $30K above the MLB minimum.
If everything falls into place, and Murton finds his way to Flushing, I’ll be happy to see him audition in September. A platoon of Murton and the rumored PTBNL Chris Carter could be a cheap and effective answer in left field for 2010.
About the Author
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.