So this was in ESPN’s Rumor Central, right before the Cubs acquired Reed Johnson:
Two baseball men who spoke with Stark on Monday described Johnson as “the perfect fit” for the Cubs, who have looked diligently for a right-handed bat off the bench who can play center field.
If the Cubs do reel in Johnson, it could free them to trade Matt Murton in the next few days. Stark also reports that the Mets, who have scouted Johnson extensively, are not interested.
Let’s take a look at the Murton/Johnson PECOTA projections for the coming season:
Johnson (31 years old): .262/.324/.387, -1.5 VORP (as a LF)
Murton (26 years old): .295/.359/.462, 19.8 VORP (as a LF)
Murton is five years younger and twice the hitter that Johnson is. To make matters worse, Johnson isn’t really the center fielder the Cubs think he is; he’s played 64 career games in center, compared to 398 games in left and 197 games in right. Now, if Reed Johnson was some sort of Coco Crisp rolled into Andruw Jones ‘n’ Ichiro sort of center fielder, that might be okay, but he’s really not. BP rates his center fielding as totally average.
Needless to say, if the Cubs deal Murton because now they think Reed Johnson is going to solve the right-handed-hitting center fielder problem, they’re dumb. Because Murton’s a better hitter, and Reed Johnson isn’t really a center fielder.