It took months of protracted negotiations, threats from the Commissioner’s Office, pokes and prods from the Commissioner’s Office, and a media firestorm for the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox to finally agree on the appropriate compensation due the Red Sox for the Cubs hiring Theo Epstein. The sides concluded that, in addition to PTBNLs (from the Cubs, it was relief prospect Aaron Kurcz; the Red Sox’s piece is yet to be chosen), the Red Sox would be given reliever Chris Carpenter, at the time thought to be an important part of the Cubs’ bullpen.

It was an annoying un-fun story to cover, and irked Cubs fans more than it intrigued them. I called it the Cubs’ version of the NeverEnding Story.

Well, here’s the thing about “never-ending stories”: they don’t end. And, no, I’m not talking about minor leaguer yet to be sent to the Cubs.

Yesterday, Carpenter revealed that he’s headed to see Dr. James Andrews so that he can have surgery on his pitching elbow, which has apparently been giving him problems this Spring (during which he’s only been able to throw two game innings). How serious is Carpenter’s injury? Well, serious enough to have a surgery to remove bone spurs, which is probably going to keep him out a few months.

Bone spurs are not an uncommon development in a pitcher’s elbow, but they don’t always require surgery. When they do, it’s an arthroscopic procedure to remove them, and – after some Googling, I can say – it’s typically a two to four month recovery process. But, sometimes, it’s much worse. As a total coincidence, you know who previously had bone spurs removed, and we can thus use as a guide for projecting Chris Carpenter’s return? Chris Carpenter. Like, the other one. The Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter had bone spurs removed in early May of 2007 after throwing just one game to start the year. He was doing the rehab start thing by mid-July, but after a couple setbacks, he ended up having Tommy John surgery (which can follow bone spur issues (the latter can be a precursor to UCL problems), and, though he appeared in a few games in 2008, he wasn’t fully back until the 2009 season. Chris Carpenter – the Red Sox’s one – has already had Tommy John surgery once in his career, for what it’s worth.

So, we know that the injury is not, by itself, extremely serious, but it’s also not a cold, and it could lead to some very serious issues. Are the Red Sox pissed? Are they going to do anything about it?

GM Ben Cherington wouldn’t say, one way or the other. You read into a “no comment” at your own peril, but if it was totally obvious that the surgery would have no impact on the Cubs/Red Sox compensation agreement, wouldn’t Cherington say so?

So what could that “impact” be? It still could be nothing. Because the decision on surgery just happened, the Red Sox could simply be investigating their options – who knew what when? Do we have a recourse? Did we make the trade conditional on anything like Carpenter’s long-term health? Can we change the player going back to the Cubs now? And so on, and so on.

The key facts here are pretty basic: Did the Cubs know – or have reason to know – about Chris Carpenter’s bone spurs prior to the trade? Are bone spurs the kind of thing the Cubs would have had to disclose to the Red Sox prior to a trade? Are bone spurs the kind of thing that are expected to be discovered by a routine physical, conducted prior to completing a trade? Did the Red Sox know – or have reason to know – about Chris Carpenter’s bone spurs prior to the trade?

In reverse order, if the answer to either of the last two questions is yes, I have a hard time seeing the Cubs on the hook here. Where the Red Sox should have, themselves, discovered the issue (or knew about it), it’s tough noogies. If the last two answers are no, and the first two answers are yes, the Cubs could have a problem. That problem could be as little as some monetary compensation or an additional player going to the Red Sox, or as major as the entire trade being voided, and the two sides once again go back to the drawing board.

I don’t think that latter outcome is likely, but, we have to be honest with ourselves: there’s very little we know at this point.

The saber-rattling in the Boston media has already begun, with Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald saying the two sides may need to revisit the compensation trade, and the guys on WEEI radio saying Theo Epstein screwed the Red Sox once again (per BN’er Cliffy).

Until someone says something definitive, you can expect to feel a little nervous about this. I do.

UPDATE: A positive report from maybe an unlikely source – Nick Cafardo of the Boston Glove – puts my mind at ease. As if responding to the precise points in this post, Cafardo writes:

The Red Sox had complete access to Chris Carpenter’s medical records, the pitcher had passed both his Cubs physical and also his Red Sox physical after he was dealt to the Red Sox as compensation for Theo Epstein, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The Red Sox will likely not receive a different player from the Cubs because everything was up front and out in the open.

Cafardo says the Red Sox knew there was risk when they took Carpenter, but he was the guy Cherington wanted.

  • gritsngravy

    My thoughts are the Red Sox should not have gotten anything because it was not a lateral move for Theo. I could see if we hired him as our gm but the fact is he was outta boston after this year and he took a better position with the cubs. I think that they call this karma. I wish carp the best and a quick recovery but I can’t say that I feel bad for the red sox. On a side note rest in peace Earl Scruggs. I hope that there are banjos in heaven.

  • Luke

    I wonder if the Cubs even knew.  Carpenter pitched in the AFL this fall, and I sincerely doubt the Cubs would have sent him to the AFL if they knew he had bone spurs and they were considering him for a role in the Chicago bullpen in the spring.

    After he left the AFL, I doubt he would have had many interactions with the Cubs medical staff until spring training… but he was traded before then.

    I could be way off, but I suspect this isn’t going to be an issue.

    Edit: Actually, he was in camp already when he was traded.  So I suppose the Cubs may have known they existed at the time of the trade since he had most likely already gone through some physicals with the Cubs.

    • King Jeff

      Didn’t he pitch pretty well in the AFL? I’m also pretty sure that I remember him tweeting something about how good his arm felt when he started throwing this spring. I don’t see how this could be an issue on already settled compensation. Then again, the Red Sox getting both Carpenter and Kurcz is much more in compensation than I thought that they would receive in the first place.

    • Brett

      I’m guessing – just guessing – whatever physical he got with the Cubs to start the Spring was the same kind of physical he got from the Sawx before the trade. So, either neither physical revealed it, or the Cubs’ physical revealed it, but it’s not their fault the Sawx didn’t detect it.

      That said, as you said, hard to see the Cubs throwing him out there to pitch if they knew he had bone spurs (although some guys do pitch through it).

  • Aaron

    My thing is, aren’t these acquisitions done “pending a physical”? If so, then the Red Sox should be on the hook for this. If not, then they are pretty dumb for not doing that before he was cleared as compensation.

    • Brett

      The questions at the end of the piece contemplate that issue. If I had to guess, I’d say that’s the way this plays out. However, it is theoretically possible that (a.) the Cubs knew about the spurs, and (b.) bone spurs are not detectable with the kind of physical that precedes a trade.

      • Aaron

        I’d say B, if anything. Hard to imagine Jed/Theo trying to pull a fast one on Ben and the Sox. Probably an honest mistake, and all will be worked out.

  • Smitty

    Brett, I beg you, Please do not share any of Carfado’s “comments.” I cannot deal with reading Larry’s…I mean Nick’s thoughts on this issue anymore.

    • Brett

      Ha. I did check to see what he’s said, but he’s been totally neutral so far (at least in print).

  • Fishin Phil

    With each passing day I hate the Red Sox more and more. To think, for so many years I pulled for them to beat the Yankees. No more, I hope they win no more than 12 games this year.

    • JoeSchmoe

      12? That’s pretty generous.

      • Fishin Phil

        We puppets are a very giving folk.

    • hansman1982

      Yes, the Yankees are my new favorite team in the AL – actually they pretty much have been since the Sox won their 2nd title and got all high and mighty as if it was their 28th

      • TWC

        If there’s an AL team that I don’t hate, it’s gotta be the Twins, and that’s almost entirely because they wear my initials on their caps.

        • MaxM1908

          I’m a Rays fan in the AL. They’re scrappy underdogs with impressive talent for their payroll. Plus, my sisters live in Tampa and are huge Rays fans. I know who I’ll be cheering for every time they meet the Sox this year.

  • Ivy Walls

    RedSox have some serious PR problems with Saux-Nation and especially the press corps. They are in a constant blame everyone else for my judgement that is now quite flawed.

  • mjhurdle

    For what it is worth, I remember the Mets organization taking lots of flak for trading for JJ Putz because Putz had bone spurs and apparently the Mets either did not give Putz a physical or gave a very very informal one. The implication was that if the Mets had done a proper physical, they would have discovered the spurs and either cancelled the trade or reduced what they ended up giving the Mariners.

    If that is the case, then it follows that the Red Sox should have been able to find the spurs with their own physical.

  • KCubsfan

    Part of a physical for a pitcher is typically a MRI and X-ray of the elbow and shoulder. If the Red Sox did this there is no way that Cubs can be at fault. If they didnt well, then the Red Sox are just stupid and the Cubs still cant be at fault.

    • King Jeff

      I agree. Especially on a guy like Carpenter who has already had Tommy John surgery. If they didn’t check his arm thoroughly before agreeing to the trade and letting him pitch, then the egg should be squarely on their face.

      • Brett

        Like I said in the piece, I think that’s *probably* how this plays out. But we don’t know what conversations were had, what the Cubs knew, what conditions were imposed as a part of the trade. I’m an overly-concerned type of person, but a tiny bit of nervousness here is justified. Just trying to make sure people are prepared.

        • KCubsfan

          Normally the team getting the player would do their own MRI and X-Ray at their medical offices. So if this was done it and I am almost 100% sure it was, the injury is new. I also dont see the Red Sox being that stupid, they know Carpenter’s medical history. They would have done a very extensive physical.

          • Brett

            It sounds like they did the physical, were aware of the issues, and decided to proceed anyway. Now that we have more facts, I feel at ease.

  • OlderStyle

    wow, the drama will grow.

    reminds me of “shouldergate”, back in the early 00’s when the Sox traded Mike Sirotka to the Blue Jays.

    • Brett

      That’s the kind of extreme scenario I’m envisioning (the good news for the Cubs there is that Selig refused to overturn the deal).

      • OlderStyle

        but will Bosox try to exact a pound of flesh in the ptbnl?

        • Brett

          Six months ago, I would have said: “nah, why would a team do that?”

          Now, I say: Why wouldn’t they try?

          • hansman1982

            Basically, the only thing they would have to get back that would be worse than the player we would have gotten anyway would be Lackey or Crawford. I would hate to be on the hook for the salaries of either of them but Crawford should do much better this year and hopefully Bosio has some magic to restore Lackey to what he was in LA.

            Looking at Lackey’s stats the only thing that was alarming before Theo signed him was that his walks per 9 increased by .3 over the three years prior to the signing and his hits per 9 by .2. Since then, he has absolutely fallen off a cliff. Not sure if it was something the Sox coaching staff did but good God, talk about some bad luck with that signing.

          • MaxM1908

            Given the way karma is biting them in the ass, I’d say any attempt to pass us a low upside prospect will result in the surprise player of the century. The Soxenfreude will be epic!

  • daveyrosello

    Red Sox Nation: We all wish you’d acquire a big ol’ bag of STFU, your constant whining is ridiculous. And send us our player for Kurcz.

  • Cheryl

    Logic seems to indicate that the Cubs didn’t know about this since he was still in Cubs’ camp to pitch before the compensation deal. But logic hasn’t been a part of this whole fiasco. I hate to say it but I think the Cubs will have to part with another player.

    • Fishin Phil

      Fine, they can have Cam Greathouse, but that is my final offer.

      • TWC


        • Wilbur

          Double heh …

  • Chris

    After ~21 years of quasi-liking the Red Sox, as I saw them as the AL version of the Cubs, I’ve begun to realize that over the past 9 seasons incl. this one, I dislike them as an organization more and more every single day. Perhaps that should be directed toward Henry/Lucchino. How annoying is this situation?!

  • Jon

    Dear Sawx,

    Pound sand!

    Respectfully yours,

    Cubs Nation

  • Dan

    Cafardo just released something on this subject. Surprised I am that he’s saying its just one of those things that happens. He isn’t saying we deserve Garza or Castro for this mean thing Theo did to us.

  • Dan

    Meh, the Cubs will be fine. The Red Sox knew about Chris Carpenter’s health and choose him for the compensation deal. The Cubs may or may not have known more and if they did know more, why do they have to share information about it?

    Anways, the Cubs are either pretty lucky or just brilliant. I think Theo and gang are just that smart and I’m glad they are on our side. So far, this front office has made some great moves and I wouldn’t be surprised that one day, Theo will become a living legend in Chicago.

  • djriz

    Maybe I’m being a little ‘Polly Anna’ here, but if Theo and company really wanted this compensation issue to go away, would they really have knowingly send to BoSox damaged goods?

  • CubFan Paul

    UPDATE: Lucchino is blaming Cherington.

    • hansman1982

      I sincerely hope they have a sub-.500 season. There is no team in all of baseball that I hate more than the Red Sox right now.

      • TWC

        I really want to say “fuck the Red Sox”, but it seems like they’re pretty good at doing that all by themselves.

  • Eric

    OH NOES!!!! Nothing Cafardo has ever said has come to be true! I’m now convinced the Cubs are not off the hook!


  • Kyle

    I’ll just put this here: Sullivan is tweeting that Castillo and Wells are being sent to Iowa.

  • Don

    Is this the trade that will keep going and going for another PTBNL? This trade will have more history than the Ernie Brohlio for Lou Brock trade.

  • Eric S

    Complete BS…….It seems like the Sawx won’t give up until they absolutely set a precedent and squeeze the Cubs dry! At first they wanted either Castro, Garza or both for Theo. That was their original offer, and it was apparent that even after Carpenter went, John Henry was none to happy about the outcome. Now they have Aaron Kurz and Carpenter and are still crying foul? Come on! Put it to bed, be done with it. The Sox are starting to look like their greedy brethren over in NY that everyone hates. Knock it off John, because Cubs fans by nature are Red Sox fans too. But if you keep pouting in the corner no one is going to have any sympathy for you.

    This is actually a non-issue, and I don’t see the Cubs having to kick anything over to Boston as a result. The deal is done, and maybe the Cubs get the WORST player in the Red Sox system to complete the deal out of sheer spite that they still feel slighted. Theo’s an exec they wanted to get rid of and start anew. Theo wanted to leave, and Boston wanted him gone. END of story!

  • Eric

    Hate to see Carpenter used in my childish need for revenge. But Lucchino, this is called karma, and justice. It’s too bad carpenter had to suffer to bring you a much deserved bitch slap to the face.

  • Pingback: Now We Know Who the 9th Starter is and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()

  • Pingback: Would The Red Sox Actually Reopen The Theo Epstein Compensation Saga? - Chicago Cubs : Chicago Cubs()