Cubs staying aggressive in quest for impact pitching

Cubs staying aggressive in quest for impact pitching
August 8, 2014, 3:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

The rebuilding timeline is changing.

With big-time positional prospect like Javier Baez hitting the big-leagues and others like Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant not far off, the Cubs are getting aggressive in their search for impact pitching, as evidenced by waiver claims on Jacob Turner and Cole Hamels this week.

The Cubs completed a deal with the Marlins for Turner, sending a pair of Kane County Cougars pitchers (Jose Arias and Tyler Bremer) to Miami in exchange for the 23-year-old righty. To clear room for Turner on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated outfielder Ryan Kalish for assignment.

"[Turner] is just 23 years old and has a really good arm," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday at Wrigley Field. "We feel like we got him at a low point of value and finding any upside left with him, so we're excited about that."

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Turner is expected to be available to pitch for the Cubs "in a matter of days." He was designated for assignment by the Marlins on Tuesday.

Turner was rated the No. 22 prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season (and actually came in at No. 15 on MLB.com's and Baseball Prospectus' rankings), but has struggled at the big-league level, posting a 9-21 record and 4.77 ERA in 53 games (45 starts) in the majors. He was 4-7 with a 5.97 ERA and 1.65 WHIP with the Marlins this year.

But he won't turn 24 until next May and was a rumored target of the Cubs in the past while he was with the Detroit Tigers, the organization that drafted him ninth overall in 2009,

Can the Cubs work the same magic on Turner that they've been able to accomplish with guys like Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Scott Feldman and Paul Maholm?

"He was one of the better starting pitching prospects in all of baseball a couple years ago," Epstein said. "We feel like that talent is still there. If you look at his velocity, it's still there. If you look at some of his peripheral numbers, he's still pretty decent.

"He's had an accelerated development path because of the major-league contract he signed coming out of high school. We've had some success with talented pitchers who are going through tough periods, just getting them here, let them reset a little bit, give them some thing to think about - whether it's a different grip, a different spot on the rubber - just boosting their confidence and let them be themselves and go pitch.

"We're hopeful that'll happen with Jacob. Might not happen right away, but certainly I think between now and next spring training, there's some things that we can work together on to get him back to a place where he can have success."

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The Cubs tried to accelerate the rebuilding timeline by placing a waiver claim on Hamels earlier in the week, but there won't be a megadeal coming with the Phillies. Not this month, anyways.

"I think we've always been aggressive for talent wherever we can be," Epstein said. "When talent is out there at a cost that makes sense, we'll always be aggressive.

"Nothing has changed fundamentally with our approach. Certainly, some of the talent in the organization is getting a little bit closer to the big leagues, so it starts to change the window a little bit, but we've always been aggressive with talent where we can be."

Hamels — the Philadelphia ace with a 2.42 ERA and nearly $100 million left on his contract — is the type of bonafide No. 1 starter the Cubs are looking for. He brings a winning pedigree that includes a 2008 World Series MVP award.

"We've been open about the fact that it'd be nice to add an impact pitcher or two," Epstein said. "If you look over the next 18 months or so, that's certainly a priority for us.

"Whether we develop one from an unlikely spot - like we have done with Jake Arrieta - or acquire someone who's already at those heights remains to be seen."

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