But is he a legitimate candidate?
Initially, Epstein’s name didn’t surface as a candidate for the Cubs’ GM job for a variety of reasons. He’s already a wildly successful GM with a storied franchise (in his hometown), he’s under contract through 2012, he’s never had anything but the warm and fuzziest relationships in his current gig, and, although Tom Ricketts has indicated an intention to copy Boston’s path to success, few thought that purloining the architect was part of the plan.
Then, earlier this week, his name would come up in passing, on long lists of possible candidates. And then he was discussed a little bit. And then people started speculating. And, by yesterday, there were legitimate discussions about whether Epstein would consider jumping ship to the Cubs.
Among the worthwhile tidbits:
- Peter Gammons, who remains as plugged into the Red Sox as anyone, says Epstein would probably at least consider the job. “I think he’d have interest [in the Cubs' GM job," Gammons said of Epstein. "I don't know right now if, with a year to go [on his contract], whether he would .… We’re talking about one of the best jobs in baseball …. It’s a great job. Having gone even longer than the Red Sox without winning, if you win in Chicago, win a World Series in the next six or eight years, that city’s yours forever. And that’s not the worst city to have as your own fiefdom.”
- Buster Olney says the Cubs could very well target Epstein for the front office, but he suggests they do so by offering him a president/director of baseball ops-type position (subscription required). Tom Ricketts has already publicly eschewed the idea of having a “baseball president” between he and the GM (I think Ricketts envisions himself as the “baseball president,” a role in which we’ve little reason so far to believe he cannot succeed). If that were the only way to get Epstein into the organizational fold, though? Who knows.
- Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe says Epstein isn’t going to be the GM of the Red Sox forever, but thinks he’s likely to pursue a president-level job or a job outside of baseball, rather than become a GM somewhere else. He also believes Epstein wouldn’t consider leaving the Red Sox before the end of the playoffs, and the Cubs won’t want to wait until after the playoffs to interview him. Thus, to him, the discussion is “pointless.” Maybe so, but I doubt the Cubs would have a problem waiting until October or early November to interview Epstein if they legitimately believed they had a shot at him.
- NESN’s Tony Lee says the Cubs would love to get Epstein but, given his contract, good working relationships, and young family, Epstein is unlikely to leave Boston.
- Paul Sullivan says even though the Red Sox are unlikely to let Epstein out of his contract with a year remaining, the Cubs are “interested enough to explore the possibility.”
- Red Sox owner John Henry was tight-lipped, but, of the possibility that Epstein could join the Cubs as president, he had this curious response: “The Cubs have one of the best presidents in baseball. I think this shows how highly regarded Theo is by the media and baseball in general.”
The takeaway? The Cubs would love to have Theo Epstein, but, for all the reasons his name didn’t immediately pop up in “short lists,” he’s very unlikely to leave Boston.
But, let’s be clear about one thing: if it were possible for money to make the difference, Ricketts would break the bank to bring Epstein on board. I have no doubt about that. Hell, I think he’d probably rob a bank or two. Whether the Red Sox would match a famously lucrative offer is uncertain (they do have assistant GM Ben Cherington waiting in the wings), but they certainly wouldn’t let him go without a fight. The Red Sox might not even let Epstein interview for the job, making much of this discussion academic.