Multiple sources are reporting that the Cubs have signed Matt Murton to a minor league deal.
Remember Matt Murton? It’s understandable if U.S. fans had forgotten about him. He was the Red Sox’ first round pick from 2003. In 2004 he was part of the epic Nomar Garciaparra trade, sending him and Nomar to the Cubs, sending Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz to the Reds and about million other guys in a million other directions. There was an Alex Gonzalez in that trade too (Which one? Does it matter?). The Montreal freakin’ Expos were involved as well. In a transaction involving a player signed in 2016!
Murton had a nice half a season in Chicago in 2005 but then sort of floundered, eventually doing time in Oakland and Colorado. But after the 2009 season he went to Japan and has been playing there ever since, all of it with the Hanshin Tigers. And he’s played really well there too. In 2010 he broke Ichiro’s single season hits record with 214 in a year in which he put up a line of .349/.395/.499. Over the course of his six seasons his line is .310/.352/.437. He fell off last season, however, posting a .691 OPS and seeing his OBP fall to .316. It’s unclear if he had injuries (NPB people: any help on this?) or if, at age 33, his bat just slowed down.
He’s 34 now and, even if 2015 was the sign of a decline for Murton, he’s totally worth a flier on a minor league deal in the interests of organizational depth. And, if nothing else, the Cubs can say they have a guy who was once traded for a Montreal Expos player, which seems so dang weird.