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Speaking on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan show this morning, Red Sox owner John Henry and president Larry Lucchino addressed the status of their general manager, Theo Epstein. Or, more accurately, they didn’t address it at all, save for, perhaps, a small slip by Henry.

The Chicago Cubs reportedly sought permission to speak to Epstein earlier this week, but, when asked about that report, Henry and Lucchino blanched.

“How do you know that [the Cubs have sought permission]?” they asked, indignantly. Ultimately, the two refused to discuss the reported request. They said it was a team policy not to discuss these kinds of things publicly, and said that other teams probably wouldn’t want them to discuss it, either.

At most, Henry and Lucchino were willing to speak generically about past requests, saying they’ve sometimes granted permission, and sometimes denied it. They said that a team has even previously asked for permission to speak to Epstein (about three years ago), but didn’t go into the details.

When pressed, they conceded that they agree with the general protocol in baseball that, if someone asks for permission to interview one of their employees for a non-lateral position, they grant permission. To put that into the present context, they are saying that, if the Cubs wanted to interview Epstein for a true president-level position, they would grant permission. Whether they would grant permission to interview for a lateral position, however, they refused to answer.

When asked if Epstein was the guy going forward to “spend [their] money,” Henry may have slipped.

He said, as with erstwhile manager Terry Francona, “these things have a shelf life …. Theo is not going to be the GM forever.”

Henry searched for his words.

“He’s the guy now …. he’s done a tremendous job over the past eight years.”

I may be reading too much into it, but Henry sounded like he was choosing his words very carefully. Lucchino remained silent. If there was no chance Epstein would be leaving, I can’t help but believe the response would have been different, or at least more emphatic. That doesn’t mean Epstein is coming to the Cubs, or leaving at all. But I found it interesting.

When discussing the team’s ongoing managerial search, the two mentioned assistant GM Ben Cherington by name as heavily involved in the search, but did not mention Epstein. Inadvertent? Telling? Hard to say.

A final thought: it struck me as very strange that Epstein wasn’t involved in the interview. Sure, he may have had other obligations unrelated to the Cubs’ request, but it was the kind of season post-mortem that you would expect the GM to be the main person doing the talking. I know the Sawx are a little different, but, if Jim Hendry were still the GM, can you imagine Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney doing a radio interview about the season – the first time you’re talking about a range of issues – without Hendry? I can’t fathom it.

So, where do we stand? The wheels are in motion. That’s as much as we know for certain. Were it not so, the denials would have been definitive. Epstein would have been present. We wouldn’t still be hopeful.

The Cubs are probably still reaching out to other prospective candidates, but it now looks increasingly plausible that Epstein is their guy.

  • Cliffy

    I agree sounds like they chose words very carefully. Ken Rosental suggested they were bracing sox fans for Theo’s departure.

  • Bails17

    Seems to me that this is all but said and done.. Henry is keeping his mouth shut for his sake in case something falls through and he is stuck with a GM that was about to walk away.

  • LouCub

    when I first started listening, i was a little suspect but now I really think Theo’s coming..These clowns did their best sidestep and that silence was deafening!! Like you said Bret, that “shelflife” comment spoke volumes to me especially since Theo was there longer than Tito was. “Theo is not gonna be the GM here forever” hmmmm. I’m still listening to the WEEI feed and these guys just said they don’t feel good about Theo’s future in Boston.. They think he’s coming to Chicago

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Yeah, I was going to say the same. Folks in Boston are reacting the same way we are: the interview suggests Epstein is gone.

  • Cliffy

    The co-hosts both think Theo is heading to Chicago.

  • LouCub

    One of those radio guys just said he wouldn’t be surprised if Theo already had a deal in place with the Cubs..Good news

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Careful. Sports talk radio guys are paid to say things like that – if you take things like that as gospel from talk radio guys, your Bible would be 500,000,000 pages long. And mostly wrong.

      That said, it wouldn’t surprise me, either. Keep in mind, though, the Cubs may still want to interview someone like Andrew Friedman, just to be sure.

  • EQ76

    “When pressed, they conceded that they agree with the general protocol in baseball that, if someone asks for permission to interview one of their employees for a non-lateral position, they grant permission.”

    So basically we’re expecting that if Theo comes to the Cubs, he’d be a GM/President of baseball operations type of role or just as a president?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not necessarily. They said they would definitely grant permission to interview for a non-lateral position (i.e., president), but they did not say either way whether they would allow Epstein to interview with the Cubs for a GM position. In other words, Epstein could come as a GM, a president, both, or some other crazy title.

      • EQ76

        Yeah, I get that.. I’m trying to read between the lines here.. why else would they have made that comment? My gut tells me Theo would be offered a GM/Prez. role with the Cubs regardless.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          It’s just as plausible (to use the word of the day) that they’re saying it because they denied permission, as the Cubs asked to interview him for the GM spot.

          As in, “we grant permission for non-lateral positions … but the Cubs wanted him for a lateral position, so we said no.”

          Obviously I’m not saying that’s what happened; just offering an alternative explanation for the comment.

          • bacboris

            So when do the Theo for Club President and Friedman for GM chants start?

      • hansman1982

        Executive Vice-President of The Mess that Hendry Built

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Run away…

    • Jason

      Not necessarily – they just said that they will always grant permission to speak to an employee for a non-lateral move and that for a lateral move, it’s on a case-by-case basis. So for a lateral move to be the Cubs’ GM, they may grant it or they may not but there’s nothing to suggest that they absolutely won’t grant permission.

      EDIT: Or what Brett said more succinctly than me 7 minutes earlier

  • cubsklm

    The key points are their perception that this is not a lateral move for Epstien. And the shelf life could also reflect on Theo interest as a GM. Young guys love challenges and upward movement, the Cubs offer both. With Lucchino there, Epstien is blocked.

    Would Theo be interested in just being the Cubs GM? I think he’ll come as president/GM then hire quality staff to handle the day to day GM functions under his supervision.

    The COO would be to bring Cherrington also.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I highly doubt the Red Sox would allow Epstein to poach Cherington, who is under contract as well. Most think he takes over as GM.

  • Matt

    Is there a position withing the Cubs organization that would be a non lateral move for Cherington if Epstein were to come over.   I thought it was already assumed that Cherington would be next at the helm in Boston?   Any thoughts out there who Boston may look towards next other than Cherington?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I have heard whispers that they’d consider re-engaging Beane in discussions. But, most think it’s Cherington.

  • Internet Random

    The Cubs are probably still reaching out to other prospective candidates, but it now looks increasingly plausible probable that Epstein is their guy.

    … fixed that for you.

    Note that I’m saying that it’s probable that the Cubs are pursuing Epstein as their first choice, and that the Red Sox brass is 100% aware. I’m not at all ready to say yet that it’s probable that the Cubs are going to get Epstein.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Fair point. I meant “their guy” as in, it’s increasingly plausible they actually get him.

      • Internet Random

        I agree 100%.

  • philoe beddoe

    I don’t think you can interpret this as anything but “good news” if you are hoping for Theo..
    Here are some of my observations/ideas that Brett may quickly shoot down:

    1. Theo has one year left on his deal…if they wanted to extend him, they would have done it or said they were working towards it
    2. the mention off the whole lateral move or promotion thing tells me that Theo is being offered the President/GM role like Dombrowski has in Detroit(possibly making compensation moot)
    3. There is no point in the ” Theo won’t be the GM here forever” comment if they plan on signing a new deal…we know that when anyone accepts a job….but when anyone signs someone to a new deal do they ever say that?….when they have the press conference announcing a hire or an extension do they make sure to offer the caveat…”but we are not hiring him for life…”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      As to (1), it may not be that cut and dried. They may want to extend him if he wants it, but he’s uncertain. So they can’t say anything, and he’s still thinking about it.

      As to (2), people are running with that, but that’s not the way it came up in the interview. They were simple saying they grant permission for promotion-type interviews, but weren’t saying that was the case with Epstein. They made no comment on that part, at all. Epstein might well be up for a President job, but this interview didn’t really shed light on it.

      As to (3), I agree.

  • Toosh

    Now it depends if Epstein is interested. Let those rumors start. Then, if he is, if and/or what the Red Sox would want for compensation.

  • ari gold

    Brett, the longer this drags out the better chance for Theo to come to Chicago. Would you agree?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes – the longer the silence continues from both sides, the better (if you’re hoping for Epstein, that is).

      • ari gold

        I don’t know how on earth anyone wouldn’t be excited about Theo coming to Chicago. He’s built a perrennial 90 win team in Boston and won 2 world series. Die Hard, I’m looking directly at you.

  • die hard

    as I said before, Boston should be paying us compensation for taking Theo’s contract….who on their roster do we want should be our focus?..

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m wise to your game now, DH. And I think I like it.

  • die hard

    how about Oscar Tejada as compensation?

  • CUB5

    I keep hearing about compensation for Theo. I don’t think we should give Boston anything for a GM, especially when the team is in such a great need for quality players as it is – look towards the other possible candidates. We have a lot of quality to pick from.

  • JulioZuleta

    I think there’s a good chance it’s announced today, before sundown (When Yom Kippur starts (Hope I spelled that right)).

    • JulioZuleta

      Plus, not to be overly anti-White Sox, but it would put them in their rightful place of third baseball team in Illinois (behind the Cubs and Kane County Cougars) if the day after they make a pretty small-time manager hire, we lure the biggest name GM away from the Red Sox. Just some added incentive.

  • Buck

    Hey Brett, was the report that TR and the rest of the brass jumped a bird to Boston ever verified? Even if it wasn’t to Boston, has anyone confirmed that they indeed boarded that flight out of Chicago or is that all still speculation due to that 1 tweet?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No. Actually, it was debunked. It was thin to begin with, so I didn’t even mention it here.

  • Bleed Cubbie Blue

    Brett, i found this on a Redsox blog, it’s just about compensation if theo comes-
    Lackey would be your classic Cubs misfit but they do need pitching and a move to the NL could help him. The Cubs could ask the Red Sox to take Carlos Zambrano in the deal, which cuts the risk in the deal from three years to two, or try to steer the conversation to Daisuke Matsuzaka. He has only one year left on his contract, but he has a full no-trade clause.

    •The need a legitimate catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia played a starring role in the 7-20 September collapse, and Jason Varitek is in the third catcher stage of his career. The Red Sox love Ryan Lavarnway but don’t know if he can catch every day. Geo Soto would be a big addition or the Cubs could send along one of two catching prospects, Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger, depending on Boston’s evaluation of them.

    •The need for a right fielder: Marlon Byrd is expendable for the rebuilding Cubs. He was playing right when he saved the 2010 All-Star Game for the NL. The Red Sox even might ask for Brett Jackson, but would they really expect the Cubs to give up their top prospect?

    •The need for bullpen help: Jonathan Papelbon seems likely to be re-signed, but setup man Daniel Bard could be headed for the rotation. Carlos Marmol would be a high-value addition, and because he’s signed through 2013 he can’t complain too loudly if he sets up Papelbon. Lefty Sean Marshall and right-hander Jeff Samardzija offer less dramatic options.

    •The need for pitching prospects: This is the No. 1 weakness of the Cubs’ system, so there isn’t much to pick from. That doesn’t mean the Red Sox won’t ask for Andrew Cashner, Trey McNutt or a sleeper arm their scouts have identified.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks – that actually comes from Phil Rogers, and was in an Epstein bullets post yesterday or the day before. I think it’s just Rogers speculating. I suspect the compensation will be, at most, a couple decent prospects.

      • JulioZuleta

        I really don’t think there will be any compensation. Especially if the President title is involved. I would be ok with a swap of “El Toro/ Huracan Carlos” for Lackey though. Not thrilled, but if its necessary to get Epstein I’m good with it.

  • ReiCow

    How insane is it to wonder if they’d bring in Theo to Pres and Friendman to GM?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Somewhere between very and extremely. :)

    • EQ76

      “Friendman”  – sounds like a really lame superhero

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        “You need a ride to the airport? Never fear! Friendman is here!”

    • EQ76

      he’s tight with “Designated Driver Man”

  • die hard

    I think Cashman and Girardi are in play now

  • Robbo

    Henry and Lucchino are holding their cards close to the vest on this one. Seems to me that would mean they are keeping quiet since negotiations are taking place behind closed doors regarding compensation from the Cubs for Theo. Lets see how good of a negotiator Ricketts is. He better not give them any top tier talent in exchange for a suit.

  • philoe beddoe

    I know Girardi is loved in most of Cubdom…not by me(I don’t trust his haircut)…actually I asked a Marlins scout I talked to a few years ago why they let him go after that one season in Florida….he said he was impossible to deal with and would not listen to anyone in the organization….maybe he learned his lesson…but I would not want him to manage the Cubs…

    • Toosh

      Girardi should have been hired before Piniella and again before Quade.

  • die hard

    I think we need someone who will stand up to GM and owner….besides he cut his teeth on Yankees….made his mistakes there….now time to come home…and I dont think Girardi would have backed down from Bradley or Zambrano

  • 1908 Blues

    With the playoffs in progress, what are options for making an announcement? Tomorrow? Or before the WS? Or after WS?

    I hope tomorrow, i’m getting dizzy with all the rumors and conjecture.

  • Toosh

    With the Jewish holiday to commence at sundown, news will have to come before then or after the weekend.

  • Deer

    Can someone elaborate on this holiday? One can’t change jobs during the holiday? Can Epstein pick up the phone? Does this go for all jews or really strict ones?

    • Toosh

      Yom Kippur begins at sundown tonight. It is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people and is traditionally observed with 25 hours of fasting, prayer and repentance.

  • MrCubs73

    Unless I read a mistaken report, the September 29th Suntimes report said Theo has an option the Sox must pick up buy October 8th. Have they picked up this option? Regardless of whether Theo is coming to the Cubs or staying in Boston, I am guessing this will be resolved by tomorrow at the latest. This is more gut feeling than fact, but with Ricketts being silent, this seems more like Ricketts allowing the Red Sox to take the initial step to soften the blow to Red Sox fans? Who’s to say the Red Sox Henry wants Theo back, he has already let Tito go. I was reading a Tito quote that he would have returned if the Sox would have extended his option. Maybe its the same with Theo, if my employer spoke of me like “you won’t stay in your position forever”, I would be more inclined to see this as a lack of commitment to me and it would make me more inclined to take a solid offer from someone else. If Theo comes to Chicago, then he should bring free agent Papelbon with him. Cubs then either move Marmol or look at him as a starter (may not work, but too high priced for set up). Take away some of Marmols 10 blown saves, that is 7 more wins, based upon Papelbon blowing only 3 saves in 2011. Just a thought.

    • Toosh

      Francona resigned before he and management discussed a new contract.

      • MrCubs73

        There is an article in Boston.com that quoted Francona say he would have stayed, but there was no discussion of a contract extension. You are correct, he did leave before management made a formal decision.

    • EQ76

      If we signed Papelbon & Fielder this off season, I’d consider that a great step forward..

      • Internet Random

        Fielder’s weight scares the hell out of me… and probably his cardiologist too.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          No way – it’s putting the cardiologist’s kids through college.

  • die hard

    why would we want a GM who sat back and allowed team to implode?

  • http://TheoWaiting Cheryl

    A GM xan’t control bad play. IHe provides the pieces and its up to the manager on the field. But if he provides bad pieces, which Hendry did to some extent, that’s a different story. At least that’s the way I look at it.

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