BOSTON — Felix Doubront just couldn’t put it all together.
Doubront showed flashes of being a reliable pitcher during his time with the Red Sox. Those flashes, however, were accompanied by inexplicable lapses, which eventually led to his demise. Doubront was traded to the Cubs on Wednesday in a deal that was necessary for Boston and worthwhile for Chicago.
Doubront, who began the season in the Red Sox’s starting rotation, grew ticked off when the club shifted him to the bullpen following his return from the disabled list June 20. The Red Sox clearly had better options, like Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa, yet Doubront felt slighted. His discontent came to a head Monday, when the 26-year-old looked disinterested while getting knocked around by the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park in what ended up being his final appearance in a Red Sox uniform.
The writing was on the wall for Doubront’s departure despite him being under team control for three more years and displaying promise at several points throughout the five seasons in which he has pitched at the major league level. The Red Sox have a surplus of young starters, so Doubront never was going to be granted his wish to return to the rotation this season. And his inconsistency — both in his performance and in his preparation — became an issue that simply wasn’t worth dealing with any longer.
“When you talk about any pitcher — not just in this situation — consistency is driven from a number of ways,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday at Fenway Park. “Every player has maintenance in their work routine, and in a pitcher’s case, in his delivery to repeat, to consistently throw strikes, to remain aware of game situations. I can’t say that there was one thing that caused his (drop-off).”
Doubront’s numbers this season are ugly. He owns a 6.07 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP in 17 appearances (10 starts), and his strikeouts per nine innings (6.5) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.65) are the lowest they’ve been since 2010, when he only pitched 10 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances. It was obvious the Red Sox weren’t going to receive much of anything in return — hence the deal for a player to be named later — and a move essentially was made under the presumption that it could be addition by subtraction.
The Cubs are getting a pitcher with upside, though. Doubront is a big lefty with swing-and-miss stuff — when all is right, of course — and that represents a commodity in today’s game. Plus, Doubront won’t be a free agent until 2018, so it’s a team-friendly pick-up for the rebuilding Cubbies.
Doubront assembled a streak last season in which he allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 straight starts. He also bounced back from a brutal stretch run to make an impact out of the bullpen in the playoffs, particularly during the World Series. The Cubs were wise to buy low in the hopes that a change of scenery could benefit the young southpaw, even though it’ll ultimately boil down to Doubront’s willingness to work.
“I don’t necessarily buy into the change of scenery. Can it invigorate someone in a new surrounding? Possibly. But as I talked with him a little while ago, if this does come to fruition, the work is always going to be needed, regardless of where you pitch or the role in which you’re pitching in,” Farrell said. “He has performed well for us over a period of time, and it can’t be understated the importance of his relief appearances last year in the World Series. Those were two pivotal outings by him, and he did a great job.”
The Cubs currently have another former American League East hurler, Jake Arrieta, thriving in their starting rotation. Perhaps Doubront will follow in those footsteps in Chicago, but he sure didn’t have much of a future in Boston