Matt Murton was a fan favorite during his first stint with the Cubs. And based on the reaction when he re-signed with the team on a minor league contract, he still is close to eight years after he was used as part of the package to acquire Rich Harden from the Oakland A’s.
Matt Murton is back in camp with the Cubs this spring nearly a decade after his last Spring Training with the team he broke into the majors with 11 years ago. Murton was not issued his familiar No. 19 and will wear No. 21 this spring as he attempts to break camp on the Cubs’ active roster.
Just about everything with the organization has changed since Murton last wore blue pinstripes. Matt Murton was the Cubs’ Opening Day left fielder for Dusty Baker in 2006 and again for Lou Piniella in 2007. It’s often forgotten that when the Cubs opened the 2007 season in Cincinnati, Alfonso Soriano was the starting centerfielder with Murton in left and Jacque Jones in right field.
Murton was sent to the A’s, along with Josh Donaldson, Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson, for Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden on July 8, 2008. Murton was dealt from Oakland to Colorado in February 2009 and was released in December of the same year.
While Murton was playing in Japan, the Ricketts family took over control of the team (2009). Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were hired in October 2011 to run baseball operations. The Cubs moved their Spring Training facilities from Fitch Park and HoHoKam Park in 2013 to Sloan Park and The Under Armour Performance Center in 2014. And Wrigley Field, well the old ballpark has had quite the makeover since Murton’s last game there on June 26, 2008. Murton’s finale with the Cubs was on July 6, 2008 … a 7-1 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Matt Murton batted .294/.362/.448 in 308 games with the Cubs over four seasons with 40 doubles, five triples and 28 home runs for a .810 OPS.
Murton reported to the Cubs facility this week. Murton signed a minor league contract with the same front office that dealt him to the Cubs in 2004 from the Red Sox. Murton played six seasons in Japan after breaking Ichiro Suzuki’s single-season hit record his first year with the Hanshin Tigers.
In 2010, Murton batted .349/.395/.499 in 144 games with 35 doubles, three triples and 17 home runs. Murton collected 214 hits and finished the year with a .894 OPS, the best of his six seasons in Japan. Murton ended up being the longest tenured foreign position player in Hanshin’s history.
Several of the beat writers caught up with Murton and the now 34-year old outfielder said he’s extremely grateful for the opportunity and is happy to be back with the Cubs. The front office did not make him any guarantees, except for an opportunity to make the team.
Murton said he kept up with the Cubs to some degree while he was playing in Japan. And then when Theo Epstein and the front office took over baseball operations, Murton said that made it very interesting to see what would happen from a fan and a baseball standpoint.
Matt Murton will be in the outfield mix when the Cactus League games start in 12 days.