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:
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.