Today, the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox have continued the delicate dance of determining just what one year of Theo Epstein’s services are worth in terms of player talent. The Cubs would prefer to pay cash, the Red Sox would prefer prospects. Good ones.
But there’s another wrinkle to the compensation discussions, which has been noted here before: Epstein wants to take some of his front office-mates with him to Chicago. The Red Sox, for obvious reasons, don’t want him to (or, at least, want to use that request as additional leverage in the compensation talks).
Thus, talks continue to drag.
Negotiations continued Friday between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs for Theo Epstein’s services, with the Red Sox taking a hard-line stance that their outgoing general manager will not be able to take any of his top aides with him, according to a team source.
Some club officials have been told that Ben Cherington, as expected, will be general manager, assuming the Red Sox and Cubs come to an agreement on compensation for Epstein, said the team source.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has given his player evaluators a list of prospects to decide if any should be made available in a compensation package, ESPNChicago.com’s Bruce Levine reported Thursday.
The source told ESPNBoston.com Friday that he would not be surprised if negotiations continue until Tuesday.
That’s the day before the World Series is scheduled to begin, and the commissioner’s office prohibits any major personnel announcements from being made during the Series.
“I can’t imagine that either team would want to go another 10 days [until after the World Series ends],” the source said. ESPN Boston.
In other words, both sides might be comfortable digging in for the weekend, knowing that (a) Epstein is going to Chicago, and (b) they have until Tuesday to figure out who is joining him and who is coming back the other way.
So, these “hurdles” might not be additional reasons to be concerned about the deal falling apart; just reasons to be annoyed that the deal isn’t done yet (I want to celebrate fully, damn it).
For my part, I’m not terribly upset that the Cubs aren’t giving in. There is a considerable difference between recognizing that Theo Epstein is “worth” a top five prospect (he is), and openly saying to the Sawx, “here, take our best.” Assuming Theo is committed to coming to Chicago (and there’s no risk that, as the process drags out, he’ll change his mind – so far, we’ve not see any indication of that risk), there is no reason for the Cubs not to dig in their heels.
Don’t forget: the Cubs are not without leverage here. The narrative in Boston is that Theo wants to leave and is being allowed to leave. That train has left the station, and the only alternative for Red Sox ownership is to shut down discussions, and somehow finagle a way to force Epstein to stay in Boston in a job he no longer wants to do.
Eventually, the two sides will come together, realizing each has plenty to lose by not getting a deal done, and they’ll meet in the middle. The Cubs will pay some cash, send a prospect or two, and an employee or two will come along to Chicago with Theo.
Any other outcome would be insane.
UPDATE: For what it’s worth, I’m listening to Red Sox Owner John Henry on the radio right now, and he said that he’s “sad to see them [Terry Francona AND Theo Epstein] go.” Soon after he sad, “What am I saying? I can’t be talking about this.” I’m not saying it’s a lock that Theo to Chicago is a done deal, but … that’s what he said.