|The A’s and Rockies engaged in their second trade together of the offseason, with Colorado sending minor league second baseman Corey Wimberly to Oakland for outfielder Matt Murton.
Murton has been a solid hitter throughout his career and perhaps an underrated one, given that his value come more from his strike-zone discipline than from the prototypical plus or plus-plus power teams often seek from their corner outfielders. The righthanded-hitting Murton batted .297/.365/.444 in 144 games for the Cubs in 2006 at age 24, then followed that with a .281/.352/.438 showing 94 games the following season.
Major league playing time is a scarce resource, and Murton has spent the last few years of his career learning that. Murton had been a league-average hitter at a corner outfield position in his career, but the Cubs kept Murton in Triple-A for most of the 2008 season. Murton showed little power last year in Triple-A Iowa and hit .298/.397/.382 with one home run in 54 games, proving either that the Cubs had some foresight or that the demotion had a negative effect on his performance, depending on whether you want to credit the chicken or the egg. In July, the Cubs included Murton in the deal that brought Rich Harden to Chicago.
At the very least, Murton could provide the Rockies with a capable platoon option to hit lefthanded pitching; he’s a career .275/.339/.412 hitter in 641 major league plate appearances against righties and a .311/.382/.484 hitter in 361 PAs versus southpaws. He’s a cheap option for the Rockies with just two years of service time.
|The Young Player|
|Wimberly’s likely big league role would be as a reserve/utility player. He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December but went unselected. A 5-foot-8, 180-pound switch-hitter who turned 25 in October, Wimberly shows good bat control from both sides of the plate. He struck out in just 45 of his 449 plate appearances last year (10 percent), right in line with his 11 percent career strikeout rate. He showed more patience than usual last year, drawing 41 walks. Wimberly hit .291/.370/.345 last year for Double-A Tulsa.
Wimberly’s best tool is his plus-plus speed. He has ranked first or second in his league in stolen bases in each of his four professional seasons, and he topped last year’s Texas League with 59 steals in 75 attempts (79 percent).
Wimberly has well below-average power and hit zero home runs last year, which is what happens when you hit the ball on the ground as often as Wimberly does. Despite playing in hitter-friendly environments throughout his minor league career, he’s a career .372 slugger (with a .312 batting average and .378 OBP) who slugged .345 in 2008 and .348 in 2007 in his first trip through the TL.
|There’s not much upside with Wimberly, but he could fill in as a pinch-runner and perhaps as a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield, a role that would leverage his skill set. The A’s already had two of the best second base prospects in the minors (Adrian Cardenas and Jemile Weeks), but Wimberly is closer to the major leagues (though the organization also has Eric Patterson). The move also opens a 40-man roster spot for the A’s, possibly to add a major league free agent.
With Oakland’s outfield situation, Murton might have been squeezed out anyway, and with the way the Cubs handled Murton, he probably didn’t have great trade value. The Rockies did well to pluck him away from Oakland without giving up much in return. Murton could provide the Rockies with a platoon option or even a starter, with an upside of a a league-average regular.