Cubs: Can Felix Doubront be the next Jake Arrieta?

Cubs: Can Felix Doubront be the next Jake Arrieta?
August 13, 2014, 8:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

Theo Epstein's front office loves starting pitcher reclamation projects.

And why not? Their brief history in Chicago proves it works, from Paul Maholm to Scott Feldman to Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta.

But the first three guys on that list were all flipped before the trade deadline. Can Felix Doubront take the Arrieta path and become a piece in the Cubs' rotation long-term?

The Cubs traded for Doubront on July 30, buying low on the Boston Red Sox product. The 26-year-old lefty has been on the disabled list with a calf strain and made his first rehab start for Triple-A Iowa Tuesday, tossing 80 pitches over four innings and allowing three runs.

"With [Doubront], I think he's gotta work his way back," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. "We look at it similarly to where Arrieta was - a guy that has had moments of success in the American League East.

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"He was struggling when he came over and getting his confidence and his stuff back is important. Theo, Jason and I all know him, we know he has potential and we just gotta bring it out of him."

Doubront was a vital part of the Red Sox' rotation from 2012-13, going 22-16 with a 4.59 ERA in 58 games (56 starts) during that two-year stretch while striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings.

But something wasn't working for the southpaw in Boston this year. After a rough start, the Red Sox moved him to the bullpen and he asked to be traded. On the season, Doubront was 2-4 with a 6.07 ERA and 1.60 WHIP.

He will get at least one more rehab start before joining the big-league club, though his role with the Cubs has yet to be defined for the final month or so of the season.

As the Cubs stay aggressive in the search for impact pitching, they will consider guys like Doubront, who have are still young, have some upside and are under team control.

Throw Dan Straily and Jacob Turner into that mix as well.

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Straily, 25, came over in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal with the Oakland A's in early July and has pitched well for Iowa, going 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA in seven starts. He finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last year, but fell out of favor with an Oakland club that has its sights set on a World Series this season.

Turner is the 23-year-old former top prospect whom the Cubs acquired in a waiver deal with the Marlins late last week.

The Cubs already have a rotation led by a budding ace in Arrieta and a promising rookie in Kyle Hendricks. Travis Wood has struggled to build off his 2013 All-Star campaign, but has been better of late and is under team control through the 2016 season. Then there's Edwin Jackson, who is still only 30, but has failed to live up to his $52-million contract.

The Cubs will head into the winter on the hunt for other rotation options as potential frontline pitchers like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer will be available.

"Pitching in general is going to be something we're aggressive on," Hoyer said. "And the better that pitching is, the more desirable it is. I don't want to characterize it as, you know, No. 1 quality or whatever.

"We know we need to add pitching and we know we have an imbalance and I think that's going to be our main area of focus in the offseason and for probably several offseasons."