Monday, May 21, 2007

Should the Cubs Trade Matt Murton?

A lot of talk out in the Cubs blogosphere has centered around the potential trade of one of the Cubs outfielders. At the moment, the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Matt Murton and Angel Pagan in the outfield, and Felix Pie is in Iowa just waiting for his chance to rejoin the big team.

Obviously, Soriano is not going to be traded. Likewise, Pie is being looked to as the Cubs centerfielder (or right fielder) of the future, so he’s likely not going any where.

That leaves Jones, Floyd, Murton, and Pagan. Because of the Cubs lack of left-handed bats, it really doesn’t make sense to trade Jones or Floyd. Of course, the idea of trading Jones has been floated in the past and there hasn’t been much interest.

Angel Pagan is a switch-hitter, but at the moment he is viewed as a 4th outfielder/pinch runner/pinch hitter type of player. If the Cubs were to trade Pagan, they likely would not get much in return.

That leaves Matt Murton as the most likely outfielder to be traded. He’s young, hits for average, has some power (not as much as you’d like to see in a corner outfielder), has average to above average speed, is a decent (but not spectacular) fielder, and has an okay arm. He’s not a superstar, but he is solid.

Of course, one of the knocks on Murton is that he is only a left fielder. He can play right in a pinch, but he really doesn’t have the arm of a right fielder.

The argument to not trade Murton has been that he can hit and he is inexpensive. Others have said that his power is developing and that the Cubs will be sorry if they let him go. Of course, this is one of the problems with Cubs fans. They fall in love with every decent player that puts on a Cubs uniform and they only want to trade lower rung players. In addition, they want Jim Hendry to get a superstar in exchange for the roster filler.

I agree with those that believe Murton has the make up to become a good (not great) major leaguer. But I also believe that he is one of the few players on the Cubs that 1) is expendable, 2) other teams would have an interest in, and 3) could fetch a player in return that could help the Cubs win.

At this point, I should say who the Cubs could get in exchange for Murton. Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve heard rumors involving San Diego sending Scott Linebrink to the Cubs for Murton. I’ve also heard speculation of Murton going to Philadelphia in exchange for Jon Leiber. There’s no doubt that the Cubs could use some help in the bullpen as well as a proven 5th starter, but I don’t know if either of these trades would work.

In my opinion, the Cubs need to make a long-term decision about their outfield. At the moment, the Cubs outfield is a mish-mash of players. They acquired Soriano without giving a lot of thought to where he was going to play. Jacque Jones is a capable right fielder (with a weak arm) who is currently miscast in CF. He’s doing a decent job there, but CF is not his position. Cliff Floyd was signed as an afterthought. The Cubs didn’t have a place to play him, but they signed him anyway. Plus, he is a DH masquerading as an everyday outfielder.

We know that Soriano is now a fixture in left field. That leaves the other two OF positions to fill. One of those positions will be filled by Felix Pie. Most people have penciled him in as the CF, but I would suggest that he set his sites on RF. He has the best arm on the Cubs and is developing his power.

That leaves CF. I’d like to see the Cubs acquire a guy not just to fill CF, but who will be a fixture in CF. I’ve heard Torii Hunter’s name thrown out there. He wouldn’t be my choice.

But what about Andruw Jones? He’ll be a FA after this year. Perhaps a deal can be made with the Braves. As an aside, if the Cubs can make a deal with Atlanta, perhaps it could include Braves catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Braves are currently looking for additional starting pitching. Would they be interested in Carlos Zambrano? Before you start yelling, think about it for a minute. Just like Jones, Z is going to be a FA at the end of the year, so the Cubs may be losing him anyway. At first blush, trading Z seems crazy, but he’s not pitching that well right now and there are options to replace him. I won’t go into the options right now, but there are options.

Another possibility for CF is Rocco Baldelli of the D-Rays. The price would not be as high to get Baldelli as it would be to get Andruw Jones (and Salty), but Baldelli would be a great addition to the Cubs.

There are other possibilities as well. My only purpose in suggesting any of this is to encourage a long-term approach to rebuilding the Cubs OF. I don’t know for sure who the Cubs could get in exchange for Murton or Jacque Jones, but who ever it is, I hope they don’t just approach any changes as just patches. The Cubs need to develop a long range plan and then follow the plan.

BTW, building a plan for the future doesn’t mean giving up on this year. Any plan should improve the team now as well as into the future.


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