I used to wonder why sportswriters and other pundits would use expressions like “I’m hearing X,” or “chatter is picking up on Y.” If you’re hearing something specific, just say exactly what you’re hearing, right?

Well, I’m starting to get it.

It’s not always that writers are trying to mask the strength of their rumors, or to make themselves sound like they know more than they do. It turns out that sometimes, you’ll hear something vague-ish from one source (they don’t have details or can’t share specifics), and then you hear something similar from another source. Taking them together, you don’t have a concrete “I can now report Thing Z is Happening.” But you can harmonize them into a coherent narrative of what is *probably* happening behind the scenes. Thus, the best you can do sometimes is say things like “I’m hearing X,” or “chatter is picking up on Y.”

With that thorough preamble in mind, I have heard today, from multiple sources (within one hour of each other), a variety of non-specific things that all coalesce into one narrative, the truth of which I’m certain: the reason the Theo Epstein compensation issue is coming to a head this week is because it is impacting the Cubs’ efforts to consider trade opportunities for Matt Garza.

The interrelated nature of these two issues is manifesting itself in three ways:

(1) the Cubs may want to settle the compensation issue as a part of a trade of Garza to Boston, but because the two sides cannot agree on what is fair compensation for Epstein, they can’t properly evaluate how much the Cubs should get in return for Garza (i.e., a haul of prospects minus the value of fair compensation);

(2) the Cubs may want to use a player or players acquired in a trade of Garza to another team to compensate Boston, but, again, without a clear understanding of what kind of value Boston deserves, it is difficult to make a clear choice; or

(3) the Cubs may need to know what players of their own they are still going to have after sending compensation to Boston in order to best choose what prospects they want in return for Garza (because, as I mentioned yesterday, multiple teams have stepped back up to the table to speak to the Cubs about Garza – including at least one team that hasn’t previously been considered a primary suitor).

This week, Gordon Wittenmyer reported that a source told him Red Sox President Larry Lucchino requested a month ago that Bud Selig finally settle the compensation issue. Why, then, would the issue just be re-emerging this week? My best sense? Because the Cubs are now just as interested as the Red Sox in resolving the matter quickly, and the pressure to come a conclusion is now coming from both sides.

I know that’s a lot to digest, and doesn’t have much in the way of specifics. But, at its core, it makes perfect sense: if you’ve got an outstanding liability that will impact your prospect situation, it would be nice to have that resolved before you address your prospect situation by way of shipping your most valuable trade piece. None of this means that, ultimately, the resolution of the compensation issue will in any way impact a Garza trade or non-trade (in fact, in some ways, the Cubs hope it has no impact whatsoever). It means only that the Cubs don’t want the issue looming over their heads as they try to figure out what the best path is with Garza.

On the possibility of, and timing of, a Garza trade, be reminded: while the Cubs would likely prefer not to break camp with Garza, thereby risking injury or ineffectiveness, they are perfectly content to do so. The possibility of an extension remains on the table (though I’m told Garza’s side has not yet shown a great deal of interest), as does the possibility of a mid-season trade, when, potentially, Garza’s value will be even higher. Further, to the extent the Cubs would like a 2011 draft signee included, as I mentioned yesterday, they’ll have to wait until six months after that player signed for him to be included as a PTBNL – for most signees, six months after signing is mid-February.

  • Fishin Phil

    Perhaps like me, they are just sick and tired of hearing the word “compensation”.

  • Matt

    Counting down the days so BN can come on here and explain why his sources were wrong.

  • Cliffy

    Brett, very interesting stuff. I sure hope for all of us we get this done and behind us so we can really tell what kind of team we have for 2012. Then put all the building blocks in place for the future. GREAT STUFF AGAIN.

  • Eric S

    This could also be hampering the Cubs in putting a good package together. If the Cubs want to send Garza and one or two prospects to a team for Player X. The only problem is the Cubs may not be able to give up prospects because they don’t know who will still be a part of the club before Theo’s issue is resolved.

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    There are a bare handfull of players taken in the 2011 draft that I think the Cubs would be targeting now, despite their very limited professional experience.

    But the idea that the two things are linked somewhat implies to me that either (A) the Cubs expect to send a somewhat significant prospect to Boston, (B) the Cubs are expecting to send someone from an area of scarcity to Boston, or (C) the Cubs are expecting to send a nearly-ready kind of guy to Boston and they’ll need to replace him in short order.

    For (A), think someone like Junior Lake or Matt Szczur. For (B), think Trey McNutt. For (C), think Josh Vitters or Welington Castillo.

    And then there is (D) something completely different.

    I love the Hot Stove League.

    • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

      I would love to believe that the Cubs are trying to squeeze Castellanos from the Tigers, thereby freeing up Vitters to be sent to the Red Sox.

      I think it is very believable that you see Garza + PTBNL in June or Soriano now with cash (PTBNL would be LaHair or Clevenger come June 15) to the Tigers for Turner and Castellanos.  That is a little heavy handed towards the Cubs but I think it is attractive enough to the Tigers for them to pull the trigger.  If you leave them paying $5M of Soriano for 3 years, that gets them through this year’s DH situation and even early next year if Martinez isn’t healthy yet without a lot of money.

      Then you could send Vitters (who would effectively be worthless to the Cubs) to the Sox and both sides win.

  • matt

    I have a few questions:

    1) Will the Red Sox be able to take prospects that the Cubs have have since traded for?
    2) Does Bud Selig say “these are the 3 players the cubs HAVE to send to the Red Sox”, or will it be some sort of choose 3 of these 10 situations.

    I don’t think I like the idea of Bud Selig deciding this as couldn’t the Cubs lose like a Brett Jackson, just because Bud is tired of hearing about this????

    • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

      Bud deciding this all but guarrantees that the Cubs will not lose Jackson.  He will not want to set the precedent of teams sending their #1 prospect for compensation when an executive gets a raise in title.  Otherwise, what in the hell would we owe to the Padres?  Garza and Castro?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I think this is it. The only way I see it costing the Cubs a super high prospect is if there is something going on behind the scenes – tampering allegations, a clear offer from Kenney, etc. – that we don’t know about.

  • Chaz

    I”m thinking D. IMO no way Boston gets anyone from A,B or C. They have no leverage here and will get a mid level nothing.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      Welington Castillo isn’t all that high level, and there are plenty of players who fit in to B and C who aren’t on the top of the prospect list. Replace Trey McNutt with Chris Rusin, for example, and the point still applies.

  • Dean

    Is it possible that this is also the reason they have not reached an agreement on Garza’s 2012 salary? Maybe his team may want the ability to negotiate an extension that would buy out his 2 remaining arbitration years before agreeing on any numbers for this year alone?

  • Chaz

    Lol B Jackson! That’s hilarious. They are not going to get much in value for Theo. He move was vertical in the cubs organization and Boston allowed him to search for other employment.

  • Frank

    Have to agree with Chaz–there just isn’t any precedent for compensation of that level for execs–especially ones making a vertical move after being allowed to seek other employment.

    • Matt

      I still say give them something in the 15-20 range and call it a day. Either that or give them the exact dollar plus one cent of his contract he would have had, if he would have stayed. There is no reason to hold up another team, because of something like this.

  • Kyle

    Boston’s case seems to hinge on the idea that they only allowed Epstein to speak to the Cubs on the understanding that “significant” compensation would be going back the other way.

    I dunno, that seems like there might be some legs to it. If they can prove that such a promise was made, then it’s hard to consider a MacPhail-level compensation to be “significant.”

    If they can’t prove such a promise or the commissioner deems it irrelevant, then great.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke


    • Cubbie Blues

      It really doesn’t matter what was “said”. If it wasn’t written down it didn’t happen. A smile & a handshake isn’t worth anything anymore.

      • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

        Actually it does, while incredibly difficult to prove, verbal contracts carry just as much weight as a written contract.  Again, that means that you can prove the contract existed and the exact terms of the contract.

        With that said, it all depends on how Kenney phrased his response.  It should have been “we can discuss that as this moves forward” and if pressed it should have been that there would be “some” compensation included.  Even if it was stated that there would be “significant” compensation included that is all relative.  Considering that Epstein only had 1 year remaining on his contract and they weren’t deep into the offseason when he left, it could be said that the remaining year isn’t that significant and (as someone said yesterday) 125% of his 2012 salary is significant enough.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Ouch, lawyered.

          However on the incredibly difficult part…

  • Webb

    Boston will receive a 15-25 prospect straight up or a 25-30 prospect plus cash. Selig will avoid setting precedent over this issue like the plague.

  • baseballet

    I’m guessing that the Red Sox want one of our two nearly big league-ready catching prospects, which would help explain why the Cubs just signed a backup catcher.

    • Bails17

      Very good point baseballet!

  • Mick

    This is an interesting train of thought but I don’t know if I’m on board. I believe it has more to do with the Cubs finally feeling the 40-man roster squeeze with the recent signing of Kerry Wood and the potential future signing of Cespedes. Before we go waiving Lendy Castillo and Marcos Mateo (in that order), we should first pay Boston their prospect. The part where Garza comes in is also in relation to our 40-man roster. If we have a deal on the table that will land us both Turner and Smyly, there’s another spot we’d need to open up.

  • B.J.

    So Brett (or anybody else with input), any idea what sort of timeline we’re looking at now for Selig to get this thing resolved? Is the end of this week too aggressive?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Kind of sounds like ASAP is what the sides want. Whether the Emperor can accommodate, I have no idea.

      • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

        I expect it tomorrow…it appears the request was made weeks ago so Selig should already have the two sides offers and I am sure he already had a good idea of what he wanted to do in late October.

        Edit: I expect it tomorrow because Friday is always a good news dump day and you get to dump it when there is the Championship games going on that the Pats are playing in.  Only better day to do it would be Feb 3 but I don’t see Selig, the Red Sox and the Cubs wanting to wait that long and then you risk the Pats losing this weekend thus turning New Englanders back to baseball.

        Or maybe I just listened to Glenn Beck for far too long and over-analyze everything like this.

  • oswego chris

    with the dissolution of the Galactic Senate complete I would think the Emperor would have plenty of time to deal with this situation…unless those pesky spice-miners are striking again…he could let that pencil pusher Tarkin take care of that for him

    • Mick

      Are we the Atriedes and the Sox Harkonnen?

    • HoustonTransplant

      If he comes to a decision, I hope he doesn’t alter the deal…and if he does, I pray he doesn’t alter it any further.

      • Dave H

        This deal is getting worse all the time!

  • JulioZuleta

    I think the Cubs want to get the compensation issue done before the trade. Assuming they get four solid prospects back from whatever team they end up dealing with, the system will obviously get significantly better. Assume Bud says, “Ok Cubs, give the Sox your 15th best prospect”, well if they do that now, that player will be less valuable then their 15th best prospect after the Garza trade, if that makes sense.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s not inconceivable.

  • Matt

    I have to wonder if the Cubs/Red Sox aren’t trying to work out a deal that involves Garza going to Boston. I don’t think the Theo compensation is being held up because the Red Sox may want someone the Cubs get back in return for Garza (ie. Turner and Smyly from Detroit) unless there is another lesser piece thrown in to that deal. Epstein’s promotion doesn’t warrant a top organizational prospect. If the Sox were going to settle for a lesser piece, then why not just take a similar one that the Cubs already have in their system. I think there’s a real chance that the Cubs deal Garza to Boston. They need to keep up with the recent moves of the Yankees. As was mentioned ealier, the fact that the Cubs settled all their arbitration cases except for Garza’s is very interesting. I’m hoping Selig figures this out quickly so that we can move forward in one way or another.

  • FromFenwayPahk

    possible technicalities:
    Are we approaching day 100 on this saga?
    Did Boston agree to allow the Cubs to talk to Theo as a potential GM, specifically?

    one thing the other guys might be thinking about:
    Does Boston really want anyone who is big league ready? Red Sox are right at the luxury tax limit, so anyone added to this year’s big league payroll is actually paid 140% (ouch).

  • JulioZuleta

    Brett, I agree with you in your twitter exchange with Buster. I think sometimes he generalizes what one source says and misrepresents it as a general consensus. No way anyone thinks that he’ll actually make 10+ this year.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      My thoughts exactly. Buster seemed not to like my response.

      • JB88

        Moreover, the chatter on Garza actually picked up this week — some of which chatter came out after the arb numbers were exchanged.

      • ced landrum

        Well, like any team that trades for him is going to want to extend him.  So that Million he makes this year can be worked out in the future of the next contract.   Like, O.k.  this year we will give you 10 million, but next year we would have given you 15, but lets do it for 14.5 the next two years.

  • Ed Money

    I would have to agree with Julio! Makes perfect sense to me.

  • MichCubFan

    could boston be interested in marlon byrd…causing this timing? I don’t really see how we match up with them in a Garza trade…although im sure there is something.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I didn’t hear anything specifically about Byrd and Boston, but it’s definitely conceivable that he’s involved somehow, too. That’s the thing – there are a million different angles.

      • EQ76

        keep in mind one thing, any trade with Boston and Theo and co. know those prospects very well.. they may feel inclined to work a deal with the Sox knowing exactly what prospects they are getting in return.. there is some comfort in the familiarity.

  • Frank

    On WGN Sports they reported that Boston wants Matt Garza as compensation for Theo!!

    • Cubbie Blues

      They can want in one hand and s**t in the other and see which one fill up first, unless a whole lot is coming back our way.

    • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

      They’ve been crying for Matt Garza since day 1

  • ced landrum

    I wonder if this is a 40 man issue.  Maybe Cubs want it solved because a guy like Dolis or Casey Weathers will move on to Sox.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Oh, I guarantee the 40-man fullness is a consideration. Definitely a part of the equation – both in the Red Sox comp issue, and the Garza trade talks (which are, themselves, related – it’s one big web).

      • ced landrum

        Have you heard anything in regards to Mateo’s health?  He didn’t pitch except .1  after Quade threw him 5 innings at the end of June.  Very strange that he didn’t even rehab in the minors.

      • ty

        So now we have Bud in the mix(Cubs best buddy) for the compensation mess. This is a mess now as time goes quickly with S.T. here. This baseball gimmick of making a deal and then agree to finish it later is fraught with problems. Would any of us buy a new car and then agree to bring a trade in later? Talk about the potential for a serious screwing!Yet with millions at stake and the future of kids you and your staff have spent hundreds of hours developing, it comes down to an asinine verbal agreement.

    • Mick

      Exactly, this is all about the 40-man. Including Wood, the Cubs now have 41 men on the 40-man roster. It’s in the Cubs’ best interests to get this compensation resolved now especially since Cespedes’ free agency is looming and there potentially could be offers on the table for Garza, Byrd, and/or Soriano which nets the Cubs extra prospects.

      Of course this is just my theory but it’s fun hearing everyone elses’. The other possiblity that is still swirling in my head is if the Cubs and Sox are looking at a trade for Byrd or Garza then what value does the Theo compensation give to the Sox. So, if Byrd was valued at a prospect in the 10-15 range and the Theo compensation was valued at a 15-20 range then The Cubs would also be entitled to a PTBNL, or visa versa. I think Selig will just set the parameters for value of compensation, from there the Cubs and Sox will decide on the specific player that falls in that range.

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  • EQ76

    I’m still not getting why an exec, with one year left on his contract, is stuck in a position in one place and can’t get promoted, gets a promotion elsewhere and that new team has to fork over a ton of value for him???

    I’m hoping Selig is fair and doesn’t allow Boston too much in return. It still feels to me that the Sox are being d-bags about it all still.

  • ty

    Marlon Byrd reports he has lost 40 lbs. Look at Chicago Cub site for picture and story on diet and exercise regimine. I saw him running in outfield at Fitch the other day and does not have that fullback physique this year. How helpful if he could be in running for comeback player of year!

    • Mick

      WTH, Byrd weighed 255 lbs last season??? He’s only 6′ tall? Amazing article and no wonder he’s dropped 40 lbs., he found out he’s alergic to dairy and gluten and now does intense Muay Thai workouts. Nice timing on this article, Byrd really presents himself as a leader, hard worker, and set to have a great season. Of all of Jim Hendry’s moves, the Byrd signing was always my favorite.

    • Deer

      Maybe he found a reason to stop using Conte’s “supplements”.

      • ty

        Loud and clear on that Deer!

      • Mick

        You’re either on something or you’re on to something.

  • RICH

    don’t understand they grant cubs permission to talk to theo give him a promotion why should have to give them a player in return? lucchino pissed that we got theo. to damn bad

  • JulioZuleta

    I’ve seen it bouncing around here and there the last few days, but now Bruce is reporting that Garza actually filed at $12.5. Bad move by him, if they go to arb, the Cubs WILL win.

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      If number turns out to be the right one, I don’t know what Garza and his agent are thinking. $12.5 mil isn’t going to happen.

      • JulioZuleta

        Yeah, really hard to figure. His agent must have been shooting high in hopes of settling at a higher midpoint. If I were the Cubs, I’d offer $8.5, take it or let’s go to arb.

    • BetterNews

      Garza filed at 10.2 mil.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Jon Heyman from CBS just said “garza actually filed at $12.5M, w/ cubs at $7.95M. misread chart. the $10.225M was midpoint (seemed like weird filing)”

      • TWC

        Write it down:  BetterNews is wrong.

        • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

          Why can’t you accept BetterNews – just because you didn’t hear your information from his source doesn’t mean you have to hate him for it.

  • Quintz

    Here’s an idea. For compensation, give Lucchino the rights to the baseball that makes the final out, WHEN the Cubs win the World Series……If I were Theo and the Cubs ever make competitive run, I’d dig up Doug Mientkiewicz’s corpse, sign him for the playoffs, and prop him up at first for the final out (“Weekend At Bernies” Style) of their World Series win just to tick Lucchino off.