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Unwilling and Uncreative
by Phil Bencomo
David Pinto, echoing a widespread sentiment, says, "It's absolutely amazing to me that the Cubs can't find a place for [Matt Murton]."
There is no question that Murton hits lefties better than the newly acquired Reed Johnson does. (.326/.399/.510 career for Murton, against .308/.371/.462 for Johnson.) With the outfield lineup against right-handers set -- Soriano, Pie and Fukudome from left to right -- hitting left-handers is the only applicable offensive skill when choosing which platoon man to keep. But there's more than offense to consider.
The Cubs need someone capable of playing center -- something Murton cannot do -- and so the Cubs snapped up Johnson. Still, Murton has been good enough against lefties that you'd like to see the Cubs be a bit more creative in such situations, moving Fukudome to center, which he can play competently, and putting Murton in right. That never seemed very realistic, though. The Cubs could have made it work, but perhaps being unwilling to jerk their new and expensive right fielder around the outfield, or fearing to put their faith in Murton, they opted not to find him a place on the roster.
I'd hate to see Murton leave, but with the Cubs' starting outfield set for the foreseeable future and the Cubs doing everything possible to prevent him from playing, Murton must be clamoring, privately at least, for a trade. And I'd be all for it -- he deserves a job in the majors somewhere -- so long as the Cubs don't give him away solely to better his personal situation.