Yes, the Chicago Cubs still owe the Boston Red Sox compensation for hiring Theo Epstein. Neither side seems particularly eager to reach a resolution at this time, but it’s still on the table. And, because it is, when Epstein appears on the radio in Boston – as he did today – he’s going to be asked about it.
And that’s when Theo busted out his mad lawya skillz:
“I think you have to put [the compensation issue] in context. In the history of baseball with all the executives that have changed teams, many of which were on lateral moves, let alone those who left for promotions like I did, throughout the history of baseball there’s really only been a handful of instances where there’s been any compensation whatsoever for executives,” Epstein said. “If you wanted to look at precedent, you’d say, ‘Well, whether I’m worth nothing, or something,’ — you would probably get some opinions on that if you ask your callers — the bottom line is when executives change teams there is no compensation. There have been a handful of instances where there is compensation, and that compensation has been pretty reasonable. If you look when Andy MacPhail, who had won two World Series, left on a lateral move from Minnesota to Chicago back in ’94, his compensation was like the 30th ranked prospect in the Cubs system and a little bit of cash.
“So I think when you say there should be compensation here, there should be because we agreed there should be compensation, so that’s part of the gig. But I think you have to look at history and you have to look at the precedent involved and realize there is not precedent for major, major compensation here. But the bottom line is we need to figure this out, and we will. Both sides are still working on it because it was agreed to and you have to live up to your word. If you agree that there is compensation there has to be compensation, and there should be. You look at precedent as a guide and try to do something that’s appropriate given the more than century-old history of baseball.
“Ben and I have been trying to work it out. I think normally Ben and I could work it out, but there’s just a little bit of a different perspective. The expectations were different at the time. We’re trying to figure something out that makes the Red Sox happy, but also fits with a century of baseball precedent. I can honestly say this one has been turned over and discussed in the media a lot more than it has between the clubs. Ben and I have had five conversations on in the last few months. We’ve gotten close but we haven’t gotten it done. Maybe we’ll need some help to get it done. I want both sides to be happy if possible.”
Epstein didn’t get a JD for nothing. He clearly lays out the argument that no compensation should be owed in this situation, but then takes the high road by acknowledging that the two sides agreed to compensation. So, he says, the Cubs want to do the right thing.
Then he establishes the “best possible offer” scenario, by citing precedent, and characterizing it in the most favorable light to the Cubs. (Compensation for Andy MacPhail, Theo says, was cash and the 30th ranked prospect in the Cubs’ system – by many accounts, pitching prospect Hector Trinidad was actually a top 10/15 type prospect at the time. But, if Theo can point to a ranking that had Trinidad lower, by all means, use it.) That “best possible offer” is actually an offer the Cubs would be plenty glad to make. Well played, counselor.
And he does all of this, on the spot, during a radio interview, without making it feel like he’s offering an argument. He’s just answering a question.
The compensation issue will be settled at some point in the next couple of months, I’d expect, and it probably isn’t a rush because rosters are still in flux.
(Side note: Theo seems to be a fan now of saying “Thing X has been discussed more in the media than it has by us.” Makes you wonder if Epstein isn’t crazy about all of the rumor coverage the Cubs have been getting this Winter.)
And, now, in case you haven’t had enough Theo quote porn for the day, here are a couple more great quotes, apropos of nothing, that Theo offered in the last two days:
“Baseball organizations are made up of human beings. They’re just not robots who put up numbers. They’re not commodities. I know I refer to a player as an asset. That’s business speak. That’s not what I believe. They’re human beings. You can get a lot better just by getting to know guys and putting them in a position to succeed and allowing them to get to know you a little bit and building, I think, a real spirit of the organization of unity and teamwork.”
“I think it’s important to be open with the fans about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, what the plan is. I think if you do that, and you’re true to your word, and you’re not trying to hide the ball, I think they’ll get in on the ground floor and come along for the ride. I just urge everyone to stay on board. When we do win, it’s going to mean a lot more to everyone whose been on the ground floor and been through the ups and downs, got to know these young players, see them come through the minor league system, watch them take their lumps a little bit at the big leagues and ultimately triumph. It means so much more if you’re along for the journey. The journey’s really what it’s all about.”