Matt Murton Rumors
One of the players most-rumored to be traded in the past month is Matt Murton after he failed to make the Cubs opening day roster and was sent to AAA. Now it appears the Cubs may have a use for Murton after all, recalling him from the minors today.
Jon Greenberg notes that Murton is still not an everyday player but could get an occasional spot-start in the outfield as well as regular pinch-hit at bats.
Earlier this week, Ken Rosenthal noted that the Rays were still interested and earlier this month wrote of the Padres also pursuing the outfielder. The sticking point appeared to be the Cubs demand for a top pitching prospect.
This could just be a ploy by the Cubs to try and up the offer from other clubs, showing that he is still of value to the Cubs or the Cubs are just now realizing that he is just more useful in the majors than he is in the minors.
A handful of random links...
- Josh Kalk did a guest post at RotoAuthority, using PITCHf/x data to analyze C.C. Sabathia's early struggles.
- Nick Cafardo comments on Julio Lugo's unimpressive Red Sox career, noting that Jed Lowrie is nipping at his heels. Is there any chance the Sox consider guys like Orlando Cabrera or Rafael Furcal this winter?
- Christina Kahrl believes leaving Matt Murton in Triple A was the right move.
- White Sox beat reporter Joe Cowley explains that real baseball is different from fantasy baseball.
- The Scherzer Watch begins, especially for fantasy leaguers.
- Joe Sports Fan offers their list of the seven worst baseball contracts.
Ken Rosenthal, your favorite hot stove reporter, has a new article up. Let's discuss.
- The Red Sox seem inclined to keep Coco Crisp unless they're blown away with an offer. Jayson Stark noted last week that the Sox don't want to eat any of the $11MM owed to him.
- The Rays still like Matt Murton, and are not content with Nathan Haynes as their only outfield acquisition. Rosenthal says the Cubs are asking for a lot for the 26 year-old, who is hitting .333/.487/.333 in 30 Triple A at-bats.
- Rosenthal notes that Jed Lowrie is pretty well blocked in Boston with their infielders signed through at least 2010. Could bring something nice in trade.
Ken Rosenthal has his latest column up at FoxSports.com. As usual he is not shy about stirring up rumors. Let's take a look at what the rumor-guru has to say:
- Rosenthal notes that the Dodgers will go with Blake DeWitt at third base who has never played a game above AA. This comes after the Dodgers failed to acquire either the Astros' Mark Loretta, who was unavailable and the Royals' Esteban German, who was too expensive. The Royals were asking for the Dodgers' third best prospect, shortstop Chin-Lung Hu.
- He indicates that the Padres and the Rays are pursuing Matt Murton but the Cubs are holding out for a top pitching prospect in return, knowing Murton will be a starter on another club. Rosenthal quotes one GM as saying that the price "is way too high as of now". As many as five teams have shown interest in Murton.
- The Mets are among a dozen teams that have inquired about Brewers pitcher Claudio Vargas, who will not be in the rotation to begin the season. [Update: Sorry about this one. I had forgotten that the Brewers released Vargas earlier this week]
- The Reds have put Ryan Freel on the market, but more teams appear to be interested in Scott Hatteberg. However, Rosenthal indicates that it is unlikely for the Red to trade Hatteberg even if Joey Votto is named the starter.
- The Tigers, Reds and Orioles all tried to acquire backup catcher Brayan Pena from the Braves, but the Braves do not appear interested in letting him go
- Rosenthal says that Pat Gillick's history in Seattle may have played a part in the Phillies inability to land M's reliever Cha Seung Baek, who is out of options but made the roster as a reliever.
- Finally, Rosenthal notes that Mike Piazza is still working out with hopes of landing a gig at some point in '08. Rosenthal thinks that Piazza may have to come to the realization soon that his career may be over.
Yesterday, Tim asked the question, "Who Wants Matt Murton?" As we await the answer to that question, only one thing is clear, the Cubs don't. Surprising for a player that is only 26 and PECOTA projects to have an .821 OPS, 19.8 VORP and 2.4 WARP in 2008 assuming he can find a team that will give him big league at bats. With only two years of service time, Murton is still a year from arbitration and four years from free agency, so he should be able to command a solid relief pitcher in return. Let's take a look at what is being said about Murton in the Blogophere.
- Hire Jim Essian wonders how Murton ended up in this position and finds it hard to believe that Jim Hendry hasn't been able to swing a deal yet if they knew that Murton was not part of the equation.
- Cobra Brigade sees the way the Cubs have handled Murton as just another example of how the Cubs don't know how to handle pretty much anything. They believe that Murton could be a solid contributor with an AL club as an everyday left fielder.
- Snobs vs Slobs is not really sure why the Cubs essentially dropped Murton for Reed Johnson, noting that Johnson is an average defensive outfielder and not nearly the bat of Murton.
- Mets Fever feels that Aaron Heilman is too big a price for Murton.
- Talking Chop believes that Murton could be a nice addition to the Braves, filling the need for an experienced bat with pop off the bench.
- DRays Bay acknowledges that the Rays would prefer a switch-hitting center fielder, but doesn't think they could find one that hits as well as Murton.
26 year-old Cubs outfielder Matt Murton is very much available now that they've signed Reed Johnson. PECOTA gives Murton a .295/.359/.462 projection for '08; ZiPS says .289/.360/.465. Here are the league averages from 2007:
AL left fielder: .275/.335/.426
NL left fielder: .278/.358/.478
AL right fielder: .288/.359/.465
NL right fielder: .275/.344/.442
These numbers are presented in the form of batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage. You can see that Murton is comfortably in the league average offensive range for a corner outfielder. He'll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season. Let's look at some trade possibilities. (As for what the Cubs would want in return - I'll guess a lefty reliever or just a prospect or two).
- Rays - DRays Bay suggests Murton could help in right field, not a bad idea.
- Padres - The Justin Huber acquisition makes this less likely.
- Rangers - They rejected a Murton for Marlon Byrd proposal, and now the Cubs don't need Byrd.
- Orioles - He was connected to them until they acquired Luke Scott and Adam Jones to fill out their outfield.
- Red Sox - The Cubs no longer have a need for Coco Crisp, even if the Sox had mild interest in re-acquiring The Big Murt. Murton wouldn't start in Boston anyway. Still, Buster Olney says there's still some chatter that the Red Sox will go after him.
- Athletics - Some folks think Billy Beane will pluck Murton simply because he's underrated. The A's don't seem to have any kind of opening for him.
- Braves - Murton doesn't project as much of an upgrade over Matt Diaz.
- Mets - Could make sense for a team thinking about running Fernando Tatis out in left. Longer-term, Murton could be an oft-used fourth outfielder, spelling Moises Alou and Ryan Church.
- Giants - Would be a nice low-pressure place to see what Murton can do, but they're already loaded with outfielders.
- What are your thoughts on a good fit for Murton?
12:35pm: Levine now reports that the Cubs have signed Johnson. For a team focused on winning now, it's not a bad move. Only drawback might be the Murton situation. Meanwhile, Evan Grant says the Rangers reduced their demands for Marlon Byrd but the Cubs still decided to pass.
11:41am: It's all Reed Johnson, all the time here at MLBTR. Bruce Levine of ESPN 1000 says the Cubs will make a contract offer to Johnson once he clears waivers about twenty minutes from now. Cubs GM Jim Hendry has already been in contact with Arn Tellem, Johnson's agent. Matt Murton might be the odd man out if the Cubs complete the signing. I'll update this post if more info rolls in today.
Quite a bit of info is floating about this evening regarding the Cubs' quest to add an outfielder. Let's put it all together.
- SI.com's Jon Heyman names Coco Crisp, Jay Payton, Marlon Byrd, and Brandon Inge as possible targets. Inge makes the least sense given his salary and the Tigers' need for him while Curtis Granderson is out.
- ESPN's Jayson Stark confirms Ken Rosenthal's assertion that the Cubs are leading the pack for Reed Johnson. Stark speculates that such an acquisition could prompt the Cubs to trade Matt Murton.
- ESPN's Peter Gammons says Red Sox scout Allard Baird is currently observing the Cubs. Other scouts in 'zona are speculating about a Sean Gallagher for Crisp scenario. Gammons notes that the Red Sox wouldn't mind getting Murton back, either. He thinks the Sox are wary of trading Crisp right now though, echoing a sentiment from Buster Olney.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that the Rangers want Murton plus one of Jose Ceda, Gallagher, or Donald Veal for Byrd. Jim Hendry did recently re-engage the Rangers, according to Grant.
SI.com's Jon Heyman reiterates the Cubs' concern with Felix Pie, setting out the three main trade candidates for the team.
- Coco Crisp probably won't get dealt until he proves he's healthy. Even then, as I've said, $11MM over two years is a lot for a fourth outfielder. The Cubs may have competition from the Rays and A's for Crisp.
- Jay Payton would be a salary dump given the $5MM owed to him this year. The Cubs could take him while passing off the $16.25MM owed to Jason Marquis. The Cubs would love to move Marquis, though Jon Lieber's willingness to pitch out of the pen reduces the urgency. The Cubs are growing frustrated in their attempt to get Brian Roberts from the Orioles.
- Then there's Marlon Byrd; T.R. Sullivan said on Friday that talks weren't dead. Today, Evan Grant wrote that the Cubs will do Byrd straight up for Matt Murton and that's a "take it or leave it" offer.
MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan writes today that the Cubs' talks for Marlon Byrd still have some life. Not much has changed - the Cubs would give up Matt Murton, but the Rangers want young pitching.
Since the potential Brian Roberts acquisition seems to be on the frontburner, perhaps talks for Byrd would move to the next level if that's completed. The Rangers may have to wait and see whether the Cubs bring Jay Payton in and which pitching prospects they give up.
Ken Rosenthal quoted a scout today who suggested the Cubs will never fully commit to center fielder Felix Pie and let him work through his growing pains. Rosenthal believes the Cubs would do well to give Pie a legitimate shot, as the Yankees and Red Sox are doing with their young center fielders.