Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein remains the longest of long-shots for the Chicago Cubs’ open GM gig, but his name isn’t falling off the radar quite yet, particularly after his tepid denial of interest a couple weeks ago.
This weekend, both Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe and Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune expressed a belief that there may be a tiny kernel of something to the Epstein rumors, and neither expects those rumors to die down any time soon.
Around baseball, there’s a belief Ricketts might hit a home run, possibly even persuading Epstein to leave the Red Sox after nine seasons and two World Series parades. It’s easy to see the downside with an organization that last won it all in 1908, but the perception outside Chicago is different.
“People in baseball talk about it like it’s the Holy Grail right now,” one major league executive said. “You have a chance to break a curse that’s longer than the one the Red Sox ended. You can distinguish yourself in ways that aren’t available elsewhere.”
Epstein is 37, and he essentially already has done it all for the Red Sox. Does he want to stay in his hometown and try to operate an assembly line for fans who become more demanding with each playoff trip? Could he be seduced by the chance to do it again at Wrigley Field?
That’s what Ricketts is waiting to find out, and some close to Epstein believe he’s intrigued. Epstein has said he’s “completely focused on the Red Sox of 2011” but has not dismissed Ricketts’ interest …. [E]xpect Ricketts to call Red Sox owner John Henry or Epstein a day after the Red Sox’s season ends.
Rogers says he’s also heard that Epstein is “bored in Boston,” which would make Chicago the ultimate pick-me-up. Even if it isn’t Epstein, Rogers expects Tom Ricketts to take him time and make a real run at the “long-shots” (Epstein, Brian Cashman, Andrew Friedman, and Billy Beane) before moving on to the second tier of candidates, even if it means not having a new regime in place until November.
Cafardo is less bold than Rogers, but leaves the door open on Epstein-to-Chicago:
There will be denials from here to Timbuktu, but the baseball community has not dropped the Theo Epstein-to-Chicago talk. And until Cubs owner Tom Ricketts selects a new president of baseball operations or general manager – or Epstein agrees to a contract extension with the Red Sox – the rumors likely won’t die.
The Sox have Epstein under contract for another year, but it isn’t clear whether he is free to leave for a bigger job ….
As one AL GM pointed out, “The Cubs job is the prize because it’s a great city, and the owner seems to want to spend the money to make it right.’’
In other words, though Epstein may not ultimately come to the Cubs, it isn’t insane to speculate that he might. The Cubs job, despite the organization’s recent (and long-term) struggles, is profoundly attractive to both established GMs and up-and-comers. Flatly ruling anyone out without more justification than “why would he leave Team X for the Cubs?” is naive.
That all said, while Epstein remains the prized pig for the Chicago Cubs, I can’t shake the feeling that he is wisely using the Cubs’ opening as leverage to squeeze more money, a better title, or both, out of Red Sox ownership. So, although it may be premature to flatly rule Epstein out, other than vague whispers and a thin denial of interest, there is little reason to believe Epstein would actually pack up his bags and leave Boston.
But, if he is interesting, I’ll gladly help him pack.