Theo Epstein Lawyering the Compensation Issue

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.”


Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

60 responses to “Theo Epstein Lawyering the Compensation Issue”

  1. Alex

    Theo.. I’m on board with you..

    I actually feel like I’m a better fan this offseason. I’ve never used words like assets and cost controlled players in the past. Never had the opportunity to.

    Now I’m going onto sites like FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus and Baseball Reference more and learning the data and how they pertain to players.

    I can’t wait to see how the team looks in a couple of years.

    BTW.. I hope the Red Sox get Bupkis as compensation for Theo. The reason nothing has been agreed upon yet is because of “Lucky Larry”.

    1. hardtop

      Bupkis? where’s he rank among our prospects? was in in double A last season? if he’s a pitcher, i say we hold on to him.


      1. Alex

        Great point.. Now I hope that they don’t EVEN get Bupkis.

        1. ferrets_bueller

          Wait, isn’t Bupkis the guy who throws an Eephus?

          1. Alex

            I think that’s a Sewell.

  2. Fishin Phil

    Valentine’s Day is coming up soon.  What are you getting him?


    1. hansman1982

      If you look at the history of Bromance’s then there hasn’t been much in terms of gifting, happening on Valentine’s Day. I think Brett can agree that if you look at precident, then you have to think in those terms.
      Now you also have to remember that any relationship is made up of 2 persons who make 1 whole. Now how does the gifting fit in terms of that. This is a young relationship, so there will be some bumps along the way, but in order to grow the best relationship both sides need to talk and see exactly where the relationship is in order to be able to determine the best process for the gifting. Maybe for this gift he will need someone to help him.
      It is all a very complex process that, frankly, Fishin Phil has made much more out of than what really is there.

      1. Fishin Phil

        Bam! Just freakin’ Bam!

    2. MichiganGoat

      Like duh a BN Bananna Hammock

      1. Mick

        Boom, I was trying to think what Brett would have Theo autograph, it’s gotta be the BN banana hammock!

  3. cubbylair

    I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of spring training the Red Sox will want to send the Rule 5 player[Gonzalez] to the minors and the Cubs will relinquish their rights to him and thus the value received.

    1. JulioZuleta

      The Sox traded Gonzalez to the Astros for cash. We would only get him back if they (Houston) sent him down.

    2. jr5

      I think they traded him to the Astros, but still, it wasn’t a bad idea.

      Edit: Obviously a bit late on that one. My bad.

      1. JulioZuleta

        Yeah, when I saw the Sox took him in the draft, I was hoping that was going to be it. Gonzalez is about the caliber of prospect that I expected to be going the other way. I guess it was just too simple.

      2. jandersonjr81 father of Caden

        If it was known that Stros wanted Gonzalez and was willing to trade for him, plus the fact the cubs didn’t feel the need to protect him, why didn’t the Cubs trade him to the Astros themselves. Seem kind of odd. It seems to me the Sox got compensated there.

  4. JulioZuleta

    Ironic that reading about Theo’s mastery of lawyer-speak is causing me to procrastinate from writing my law school personal statement.

    1. Luke

      Allow me to help.

      JulioZuleta’s Personal Statement

      As a result of the heightened levels of mental proficiency resulting from an exhaustive and diligent study of the profound and archaic tomes upon which education of the legalistic nature depends, as well as the refinement of all aspects of my own comportment with regards to the application of such knowledge and insights yielded from the pursuit of the aforementioned studies, it is my intent to henceforth structure my future endeavors and the various merits of my character in no lesser pursuit than achieving a level of pure awesome heretofore observed only in the case of one Theo Epstein. And also to take over the world.

      That oughta take care of it.

      1. JulioZuleta


      2. JulioZuleta


        1. Luke

          I’d have stuck some Latin and Greek in there, but I haven’t studied Latin in over a decade, and I took Russian instead of Greek.

  5. die hard

    he has a low opinion of his worth which is not heartening for Cub fans

    1. EQ76

      don’t take him so serious DH, this is strategic humility and it IS heartening for this Cub fan.

      1. die hard

        If I could post a photo you would see my tongue in cheek….Cub fans dont deserve Theo

    2. Wilbur

      I truly love your perspectives, they are always unique.

      I still think you are either Brett’s alter ego or not so evil cousin …

  6. EQ76

    I still think that since it was a promotion, the Cubs owe very little to the Red Sox for compensation.  the Pads actually have more of an argument since Hoyer left in a lateral move.

  7. Frank

    Luke, that personal statement is classic.
    EQ76–strategic humility is heartening for this Cubs fan too; and I agree with you on the compensation issue.

  8. Oswego chris

    Wow…..IQ level a little higher on the day shift…

    I do believe that eventually a tool which will project major league success more accurately will be developed…the key is evaluating your own guys…

    Can we get a package discount for the Bears? I think Angelo just bought one of those cheap draft guides at Walgreens…

    1. hansman1982

      I do believe that eventually a tool which will project BN posting success more accurately will be developed…the key is evaluating your own guys…

      Corrected it for ya there.

    2. cls

      If Angelo did just buy one of those cheap draft guides, I wonder why he did, cause the Bears canned him a couple weeks ago. We are GM-less right now…

  9. Still Love the Cubs

    I like how Theo continues to say things like “I think it’s important to be as open and honest with the fans and the players as possible.”

    I don’t really know for sure if he is or not, but he sure seems sincere about this. And the way that he speaks and couches everything makes me feel like he is telling me everything he possibly can, which makes me feel like he is completely competent.

    Very different from Hendry IMO, and I LOVE IT!!

  10. cls

    Is it just me, or does Theo look like a young George Clooney in that pic?

  11. BetterNews

    What’s minimal when you got minimal?

  12. Dean

    Personally, I think the Cubs should get compensation. Ben took another position that was a promotion, and the Cubs allowed that to happen by taking Theo off their hands.

    1. BetterNews

      Like the compensation argument, but who is Ben?

      1. ferrets_bueller

        Ben Kenobi.

        1. BetterNews

          Ferrets–Thiis whole compensation thing just “boggles” my mind. Makes no sense.

          1. Rick Vaughn

            It “boggles” your mind? Like quotation marks?

            1. BetterNews

              Rick –Ha! You’re alright dude.

        2. BetterNews

          ferrets–Somebody out there is trying to imitate you. That person couldn’t make a pimple on your a@@!

      2. Kansas Cubs Fan

        Dover, Ben Dover.


      3. Dean

        Ben Cherington (sp?). He was the assistant GM under Theo in Boston. They were grooming him to take over for Theo. Obviously, he’s their new GM now.

  13. Tommy

    Brett, that was an astounding article.  My favorite one to date!  Great info, and loved the quotes from Theo.

    Now I feel all tingly inside.

  14. MightyBear

    I say give the Red Sox rights to No No Nanette at the Chicago Theater and tell them to shut the f@#$ up.

  15. 2much2say

    The proper use of quotations? “Compensation”

  16. jandersonjr81 father of Caden

    IDK about the sox, but the SD compensation was settled. They wanted Byrnes as GM, but didn’t wanna fire Hoyer caused they would have had to still pay him. Since we agreed to take him, they compensated us by making a lop sided Rizzo trade in our favor. That’s the only explanation I could come up with, considering we robbed them in that trade.

  17. Alex

    I just watched Yoennis Cespedes’ first AB for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League.

    He struck out.

    Here is the link if you want to watch the game.

    1. Rick Vaughn

      Awesome! Thanks Alex!

      1. Alex

        No problem Rick. I guess his marketing team figured that’s it’s time for us to finally see what the hype is all about.

      2. Alex

        So far Cespedes is 0-2 with 2 K’s

        The last one was very Soriano like, with Cespedes chasing one low and away out of the strike zone.

      3. BetterNews

        Rick–Calm down dude!

        1. Rick Vaughn

          Dude, isn’t there something shiny in the room you’d be more interested in than randomly hitting computer keys?

          1. BetterNews

            Yep–AWS ring! And it starts with Garza!

          2. Kansas Cubs Fan


            Tap tap.

  18. ty

    I don*t give a damn who he trades as long as his wife comes to the games!

    1. BetterNews

      You not married? Look for Katie when she is back.

    2. jandersonjr81 father of Caden

      His wife is pretty normal. Nothing good, nothing bad. I think my wife is way hotter. Looking at her, I think a lot of us probably have hotter wives.

      1. Kansas Cubs Fan

        Sorry pal, You can’t marry the playboy centerfold.

        It’s only paper.

        1. Tommy


        2. Fishin Phil

          He’s right.  I tried it when I was a teenager.  Fearsome paper cuts.

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