Friday, October 28, 2011

Matt Murton a Good Fit for the Indians

If the Cleveland Indians, as expected, decline the 2012 option on center fielder Grady Sizemore they will be looking for either a replacement center fielder or will move Micheal Brantley to that spot and look for a left fielder. An intriguing name that the Indians should have interest in signing is 30 year old left fielder Matt Murton.

Murton has spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons playing in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers. On October 5, 2010 he collected his 211th hit of the season breaking Ichiro Suzuki's single season hit record set in 1994 (Murton played in 141 games compared to Ichiro's 130).  In 2010, he finished the year by posting a slash line of .349/.395/.499 an OPS of .894 with 17 HR and 91 RBI and he finished 2011 with a slash line of .311/.339/.423 an OPS of .762 with 13 HR and 60 RBI. 

Murton is a rare player who became a journeyman but never failed at the big league level.  In 1058 major league plate appearances he put up a slash line of .286/.352/.436. Was he a victim of a veteran loving GM and Manager in Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella in Chicago? Was he overlooked in Oakland and a victim of a numbers game in Colorado? Murton is an interesting player in that he has remained healthy throughout his career and has performed well both as a starter and a role player at the major league level. The Indians could offer Murton one thing that has seldom been given to him and that is the opportunity to play everyday at the major league level.

Murton played parts of 4 seasons with the Chicago Cubs bouncing between AAA Iowa and the Cubs posting a slash line of .294/.362/.448 an OPS of .810 with 28 HR and 104 RBI in 971 big league PAs.  His most successful season came in 2005 when he posted a slash line of .297/.365/.444 and OPS of .809 with 13 HR and 62 RBI in 508 PA. 

Following the 2006 season the Cubs signed free agents Mark DeRosa and Cliff Floyd. Eventually the Cubs moved Alfonso Soriano to left field and Cliff Floyd to right field and he became a member of the Cubs bench. His numbers suffered as he adjusted to his role as a bench player hitting just .252/.331/.336 with 1 HR and 8 RBI in 133 PA through June 12 when the Cubs sent him to AAA Iowa.  He played in 39 games in Iowa hitting .331/.4007/.575 with 6 HR and 27 RBI covering 172 PA and was recalled by the Cubs on July 27th. He seemed much more comfortable in his role as a bench player after his recall as he hit .310/.375/.543 with 7 HR and 14 RBI covering 128 PAs. Overall, Murton posted a .281/.352/.432 with 8 HR and 22 RBI covering 261 PAs.

Following the 2007 season the Cubs signed Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome and were depending on Felix Pie to take over in center field which meant that despite a strong finish in 2007 Murton would begin the 2008 season back in Iowa.  He was recalled on April 19th after Alfonso Soriano was placed on the disabled list but his playing time was limited to 8 games (1 start) before being sent back to Iowa after Soriano came off the disabled list on May 1st. The Cubs added another outfielder to the roster on May 14th when they signed Jim Edmonds to play CF making Reed Johnson the 4th outfielder. 

Murton received a break when Alfonso Soriano was hit by a pitch and broke a bone on his hand. He was recalled from Iowa where he hit .298 but it was suggested by the local writers that he was recalled primarily to be showcased for a trade (Chicago Tribune). On July 8th the Cubs did in fact include him along with Josh Donaldson, Sean Gallagher, and Eric Patterson to the Oakland A's for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. The transition to the A's was not a smooth road for Murton as he was sent down to AAA Sacramento after hitting only .100 in 9 games covering 31 PAs. He played the final 32 games at Sacramento hitting .277/.345/.423 in the final 32 games covering 145 PAs.

Following the 2008 season Murton was on the move once again as he was dealt to the Colorado Rockies for Corey Wimberly.  He spent the beginning of the 2009 season playing for AAA Colorado Springs before being recalled to Colorado on April 29th.  Between April 29th and June 4th Murton made 8 starts and appeared in 22 games hitting .367/.327/.444 with 1 HR and 6 RBI. He returned to the Rockies on September 10th. He finished 2009 hitting .250/.304/.304 with 1 HR and 6 RBI in 29 games covering  56 PA. His finished the season in Colorado Springs hitting .324/.389/.499 with 12 HR and 79 RBI. 

On December 7, 2009, the Rockies sold the rights for Murton to the Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball League and signed a 2-year contract (the second year a club option) worth 1.5 million dollars for the first year. 

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