In each of the “updates”, though, very little new information was gleaned. We had – much like the extension discussion itself – a status quo on all fronts. To bring you up to speed:
1. Epstein’s current contract expires at the end of the 2016 season;
2. Both Epstein and Chairman Tom Ricketts are interested in making an extension happen;
3. Discussions hadn’t really occurred quite yet; and
4. Discussions were set to occur once the season – and all of the hustle and bustle of the offseason – had died down.
Epstein’s initial five-year deal with the Cubs is up at the end of this season, and, whether you’re confident a deal will get done or not, it isn’t best practice to wait into the season to execute it. Nobody wants to have to worry about this after the season has started, or worse, as it draws to a close.
That said, I do feel as though a deal was/is always likely. Although Ricketts and Epstein consistently reiterated that no discussions had been held and that we’d know when they were, everyone knows that both sides want to get a deal done. It seems fair to surmise that, while negotiations were in their infancy, all interested parties agreed to keep things under wraps.
We’ve seen the front office operate this way for four straight years, so the silence would hardly be a deviation from the norm. Much like trade discussions or free agency, there is very little to gain by making early discussions public – other than, perhaps, leverage (but you hope it wouldn’t come to that) – so everyone agreed to operate quietly. Including the fans, as a completely biased and emotional third party, would only complicate things, especially if Ricketts and Epstein were far off in their expectations.
Which is all a long way of saying, I think you can take the admission of discussions as a hugely positive sign. This is a particularly smart duo that understands how far their words can be taken and stretched. And, until now, they made sure none of that happened by saying nothing. Saying something – indeed, this close to the Cubs Convention – is probably indicative of a step in the right direction. In the interview with 670 the Score, Ricketts even went as far to say that they are “generally on the same page, and we will be getting around to it shortly.”This is all good news, because, like both Epstein and Ricketts, you should be rooting for a smooth, swift extension as soon as possible. And, if and when a deal is finalized, I would expect it to be huge. When he was first brought aboard, Epstein’s five-year, $18.5M was the most in baseball. Now, it has been topped by a small number of other executives across the league. After the season the Cubs had in 2015 and the expectations in place for 2016, ownership may have to offer a significant raise (Andrew Friedman, for perspective, is making $7M a year with the Dodgers).
For what it’s worth, Ricketts has acknowledged the soaring prices of top tier executive talent, believing that it has ballooned faster than expected, but that it is often money well spent. I’d agree.
With the Cubs Convention coming up this weekend, perhaps we’ll hear something soon – it would certainly be a fun reveal to the fans to drop the news at the Convention.
You can listen to the full Ricketts interview, for more on these and other topics, here.