Chicago Cubs: Matt Murton deserves a spot on the Opening Day roster
A couple of weeks ago, the Chicago Cubs made an interesting move in signing outfielder Matt Murton, who played for the team from 2005-2007.
Murton, now 34 years old, spent the past six season playing for the Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Baseball League in Japan. While in Hanshin, Murton hit over .300 in four of his six seasons, including a 2010 season where he broke Ichiro’s record for most hits in one season with 214.
Before Japan, however, Murton was a top prospect for the Red Sox, traded to the Cubs in the Nomar Garciaparra deal. His three seasons with the Cubs should be seen as a success, as he hit .321, .297 and .281 in 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons.
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Murton was supposed to be the team’s left fielder for the long-term, but signing Alfonso Soriano made him expendable. The team traded him to the Oakland Athletics in the Rich Harden deal, which resulted in two disappointing seasons before he left for Japan.
Back then, Murton was a top prospect and apparently left fielder of the future for the Cubs. Now, he’s fighting for a chance to be the team’s fifth outfielder, a spot the team strongly needs to consider him for.
For one thing, Murton is an experienced veteran. At 34-years-old, he would be an elder statesman on a young Cubs team, including an outfield that is all under 30-years-old besides Chris Coghlan. Outfielder and catcher Kyle Schwarber could learn how to play the position from a true left fielder.
In addition to mentoring Schwarber, Murton might just have the best bat of all the options for the fifth outfielder spot. Matt Szczur might be the only true center fielder on the roster, but his career .224 batting average is unimpressive, to say the least.
2012 first round pick Albert Almora is an intriguing option to make the roster, but the reality is that he needs to play every day, something he won’t do in Chicago. He also needs more time in the minor leagues to improve his hitting before getting promoted.
Murton’s veteran presence and hitting off the bench would be valuable intangibles to a potential Cubs’ postseason team. If the team decides they’d rather have Szczur’s defense and speed for a potential playoff run, then he is the better option.
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Without a doubt, Murton’s presence in camp alone has created numerous questions needing to be answered. All in all, though, it is clear that whoever wins the fifth outfielder job definitely will have earned it.