Chicago baseball fans have been buzzing over the past 24 hours. Not because of anything that has transpired in the post-season with the teams that are still in contention, but because of the news being made off the field. It is no secret that one of the best available jobs in baseball right now is the Cubs’ general manager post. Since chairman Tom Ricketts made the firing of former GM Jim Hendry official, there have been “big names” linked to the Cubs’ general managerial opening. Perhaps, the biggest name of all has been current Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. Epstein watched his Red Sox choke away their wild card lead to the Tampa Bay Rays in the final games of the season. Since the end of their season, the Red Sox–by owner John Henry’s doing–have fired Terry Francona as their manager, and now may be contemplating life without their current general manager.
While Ricketts has been aiming to keep the Cubs’ general managerial search quiet, everybody within the baseball industry knows that Epstein is his top choice to be the Cubs’ next general manager. Up until this week, Ricketts has been unable to contact the Red Sox–let alone Epstein–because the Red Sox were battling for a post-season spot. But after the regular season ended, and chaos ensued in Boston, Ricketts has picked the right time to try and pry Epstein away from the Red Sox organization.
Tuesday morning, the Cubs owner went through the official channels and formally requested the permission of the Red Sox to interview Epstein. The Red Sox brass–including Epstein, team president Larry Lucchino, and owner John Henry–were discussing how they should go about the Cubs’ request. Just the fact that the Red Sox upper management is debating on whether or not to let Epstein interview should be optimistic news for Cubs fans. Because that could mean a couple of things: A) Epstein is interested in joining the Cubs organization, and thus wants the interview or B) Red Sox owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino may feel it is time for life without Epstein. There also is the thought that Epstein could only be using the Cubs as a poker chip to get a better deal from the Red Sox. If that were the case, I think someone within the Red Sox organization would have been quick to shoot down the Cubs’ request.
The Red Sox are considering every aspect before responding to the Cubs’ request. At one point, one scenario had the Red Sox seeking the approval of major league baseball in order to require compensation from the Cubs just to interview Epstein. That is not going to happen, and the Red Sox know that. But, the Red Sox have yet to answer the Cubs’ request. Depending on what reporter you follow on twitter or what blog you read, you may have varied opinions on whether or not the possibility of Epstein leaving Boston is real. The possibility is as real as ever, and the likely scenario may be the Red Sox granting permission to Ricketts to interview Epstein and then requiring some compensation if Epstein is hired by the Cubs. In any event, the Red Sox are expected to reply to the Cubs request by the end of the week.
There are some twitter rumblings that the Cubs’ brass may be headed to Boston. John Arguello of Cubs Den tweeted that Ricketts, team president Crane Kenney, and front office officials Ari Kaplan, Tim Wilken and Oneri Fleita were rumored to be seen at a private Chicago land airport boarding a private plane to Boston. If that is the case, that may suggest that the Red Sox have already granted the Cubs permission to interview Epstein. The belief is that any interview with Epstein would be a formality, as Ricketts will likely offer a long-term deal to Epstein as soon as he gets the chance. Epstein–who is seeking more power and may be ready to embrace the challenge of operating the Cubs–will likely be given free reign within the Cubs organization if he is hired. There have been more reports to come out over the past couple of days that suggest that Crane Kenney has been banished from the baseball operations of the organization, and that would potentially clear the way for Epstein to become the new team president in addition to general manager.
There has also been the question of how the Cubs would compensate the Red Sox if they hire Epstein. Bruce Levine told “The Waddle and Silvy Show” this morning that he does not think the Cubs would have to compensate the Red Sox if they hire Epstein because unlike the Marlins did with Ozzie Guillen, the Cubs did not break any tampering rules. However, there have been other reports that mentioned Brett Jackson, Andrew Cashner, Trey McNutt, or Matt Szczur as possible player compensation. As long as the Cubs do not give up Starlin Castro, I am fine with the Cubs giving up a top prospect if it meant Epstein becoming their next general manager.
At first, I did not want to bait myself into thinking Epstein was a real possibility. However, now I am following every twist and turn of the Red Sox fall-out in hopes that it will bring the Cubs Epstein. Whether it does or not, we will know soon enough.