Is It Time To Panic?

It was just under a week ago that we learned that Theo Epstein has agreed a five year, $2o million contract to be the president of baseball operations in addition to general manager of the Chicago Cubs. Since coming to that agreement with Tom Ricketts, the Epstein move from Boston to Chicago has been in a waiting pattern as the two organization try to work out an agreement in terms of compensation. Throughout the weekend, the belief was that biggest sticking point between the two sides was the personnel that Epstein would be allowed to bring with him to Chicago.

It seems that the personnel issue has been settled. While Epstein was hoping that he would be allowed to bring Red Sox vice president of baseball operations Brian O’Halloran, head trainer Mike Reimold, and special assistant Dave Finley with him to Chicago it would seem that there is an understanding between the two sides that Epstein will not be allowed to bring any of his Red Sox colleagues with him. That increases the chances that Josh Byrnes, of the San Diego Padres, will likely follow Epstein to Chicago.

So with there seemingly being an agreement between the two organizations that Epstein will not be allowed to bring any of the Red Sox personnel with him to the Cubs, an agreement on compensation can’t be that far off, right? Wrong. It would seem that negotiations regarding possible player compensation has hit a snag.

Considering Red Sox president Larry Lucchino’s current disdain for Epstein, he is making the negotiating process a nightmare for the Cubs. The consensus going into this past weekend was that both the Cubs and Red Sox wanted to make the Theo move official before the World Series begins on Wednesday. The St Louis Cardinals clinching the National League crown on Sunday gave the two teams a two-day window to make a deal official. Day one of the window has come and gone without an agreement, and now panic is beginning to creep into the mind’s of every Cubs fan.

Lucchino has an axe to grind with Epstein, and that is fairly apparent in how he is handling the negotiations regarding Epstein’s compensation. Under the lead of Lucchino, and newly appointed general manager Ben Cherington, the Red Sox have failed to come down from their steep demands. The Red Sox initially asked for Matt Garza, and that proposal was consequently rejected by Ricketts. Latest rumblings have the Red Sox pushing for Cubs’ top pitching prospect Trey McNutt to be in the compensation package, but the Cubs have deemed McNutt as untouchable. That is where things currently stand between the Cubs and Red Sox.

Eventually, one side is going to have to blink. While it is possible that the Red Sox would pay Epstein to sit at home, I can’t imagine that Red Sox owner John Henry and Lucchino would be ready to take on the PR nightmare that would ensue from talks with the Cubs breaking down. Henry has already referred to Epstein in the past tense while criticizing the moves that Epstein made last off-season. Meanwhile, Lucchino is more than willing to spill dirt on Epstein as the relationship between the two has grown estranged over recent years. However, that has not stopped Lucchino from puffing up his chest and doing his best to “carry a big stick” during negotiations.

But, that does not mean that the Cubs are not in a dangerous position. Epstein has already been praised as the savior for the Cubs, and the backtracking that would occur from Epstein not joining the Cubs’ organization would be catastrophic. There has been some speculation that the Cubs may walk away from the negotiations and then pursue Epstein once his contract with the Red Sox expires after the 2012 season. While that is certainly possible, that scenario is far from likely. That would mean that Ricketts would have to explain to media and fans alike why Epstein is not with the organization, despite the fact that he agreed to a five year contract with the organization. Surely Ricketts could put the blame on the Red Sox, and that is who should be blamed if talks were to unexpectedly halt, but it still would be messy situation for the Cubs’ chairman to clean up.

Call me biased, but I’m still not in panic mode. The process is too far advanced for things to break down, and Epstein may already be secretly making front office decisions with the Cubs. Nonetheless, the Red Sox–more so Henry and Lucchino–remind me of Detective Alonzo, AKA Denzel Washington, at the end of Training Day. In the Red Sox case, Lucchino and Henry took Epstein under their wing and now they feel betrayed that Epstein is looking to leave the organization. Seeing as the situation is similar, and you can never get enough of Denzel Washington, here is a look at how Henry and Lucchino are probably feeling.

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Ciubs, John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Matt Garza, Theo Epstein, Tom Ricketts, Trey McNutt

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  • LouCub

    Jordan, it’s not going to fall through..but Lucchino’s vendetta against Theo is plain bullshit!!!!! I keep hearing how Theo is worth more than Ozzie Guillen..That is a fact, but the Marlins tampered with him, the Cubs were on the up and up with Theo and went thru all the right channels…Selig needs to step in and mediate..This for all intensive purposes is a promotion financially and in terms of power for Theo a deal should be cut and dry..and Lucchino’s hard ball tactics set an incredibly bad precedent.. Mr Rickettts wants Theo and he won’t let it go but this guy Lucchino needs to be put in his place..Secondly, in regards to bringing people with him…If the BoSox allowed Josh Byrnes and Jed Hoyer to take 2 employees each upon leaving, why can’t Theo??? Doesn’t Cherrington want some of his own people in his front office, instead of Theo’s?? This vendetta needs to stop, now!!!

  • LouCub

    Jordan, it’s not going to fall through..but Lucchino’s vendetta against Theo is plain bullshit!!!!! I keep hearing how Theo is worth more than Ozzie Guillen..That is a fact, but the Marlins tampered with him, the Cubs were on the up and up with Theo and went thru all the right channels…Selig needs to step in and mediate..This for all intensive purposes is a promotion financially and in terms of power for Theo a deal should be cut and dry..and Lucchino’s hard ball tactics set an incredibly bad precedent.. Mr Rickettts wants Theo and he won’t let it go but this guy Lucchino needs to be put in his place..Secondly, in regards to bringing people with him…If the BoSox allowed Josh Byrnes and Jed Hoyer to take 2 employees each upon leaving, why can’t Theo??? Doesn’t Cherrington want some of his own people in his front office, instead of Theo’s?? This vendetta needs to stop, now!!!

  • johnbres2

    “There is so little precedent for this type of thing, that it is hard to know if it will work out or not. I disagree with your conclusion that “the backtracking that would occur from Epstein not joining the Cubs’ organization would be catastrophic.” Because of the close-to-the-vest manner in which Ricketts has handled this, there wouldn’t need to be any backtracking; he would simply move on the next candidate. It is true that the Red Sox scorched earth tactics would have created some ill will and messed a bit with the Cubs’ timetable, but I really do not see a big problem if the deal falls through. To the fans it would appear catastrophic, given our “need” for a “savior,” but I don’t think Ricketts would consider it catastrophic, nor do I think it actually would be. It would simply indicate to me that Ricketts was not in fact the right “fit” for the Cubs at this time. I am maintaining my positive attitude about the direction the Cubs are heading, regardless of whether they get Theo.

  • johnbres2

    “There is so little precedent for this type of thing, that it is hard to know if it will work out or not. I disagree with your conclusion that “the backtracking that would occur from Epstein not joining the Cubs’ organization would be catastrophic.” Because of the close-to-the-vest manner in which Ricketts has handled this, there wouldn’t need to be any backtracking; he would simply move on the next candidate. It is true that the Red Sox scorched earth tactics would have created some ill will and messed a bit with the Cubs’ timetable, but I really do not see a big problem if the deal falls through. To the fans it would appear catastrophic, given our “need” for a “savior,” but I don’t think Ricketts would consider it catastrophic, nor do I think it actually would be. It would simply indicate to me that Ricketts was not in fact the right “fit” for the Cubs at this time. I am maintaining my positive attitude about the direction the Cubs are heading, regardless of whether they get Theo.

  • Luke Blaize

    The Cubs could walk away with a minimal PR hit, except from Rosenbloom. But then, the Cubs could go 162-0 every year for the next 25 years, sweep every playoff series while wracking up 25 Championships, and cure cancer in their spare time and Rosenbloom would still insist that the Cubs are a terribly run franchise with a clueless imbecile as an owner and almost no talent anywhere in the organization. I’m not losing sleep over the opinions of vitriolic airheads of the Chicago sports world. They need something to be bitter about; may as well be the Cubs.

    For the rest of us, all Ricketts has to do is say “We identified our top candidate, but he was not made available to us at this time. So we are going to go ahead and welcome Josh Byrnes as the new Cubs General Manager on the understanding that when our top candidate is made available, that individual will be hired as the President of Baseball Operations and given the keys to the franchise. Mr. Byrnes is aware of all this and is on board with this plan.” And that just about covers it.

    Everyone would know who the “top candidate” is and why he is unavailable, and the same Cub fans who were split on the Garza trade are hardly likely to criticize the Cubs for not mortgaging the entire farm system for a front office guy who will be available for free in a year. With Byrnes in house, the Cubs would not miss a beat heading into the coming offseason.

    And if Ricketts did that, I think we would see Boston leak all kinds of nasty things about the Cubs and Epstein, quietly buy out Epstein’s contract during the winter, and Epstein would be settling into his new office in Chicago well before spring training started.

  • Luke Blaize

    The Cubs could walk away with a minimal PR hit, except from Rosenbloom. But then, the Cubs could go 162-0 every year for the next 25 years, sweep every playoff series while wracking up 25 Championships, and cure cancer in their spare time and Rosenbloom would still insist that the Cubs are a terribly run franchise with a clueless imbecile as an owner and almost no talent anywhere in the organization. I’m not losing sleep over the opinions of vitriolic airheads of the Chicago sports world. They need something to be bitter about; may as well be the Cubs.

    For the rest of us, all Ricketts has to do is say “We identified our top candidate, but he was not made available to us at this time. So we are going to go ahead and welcome Josh Byrnes as the new Cubs General Manager on the understanding that when our top candidate is made available, that individual will be hired as the President of Baseball Operations and given the keys to the franchise. Mr. Byrnes is aware of all this and is on board with this plan.” And that just about covers it.

    Everyone would know who the “top candidate” is and why he is unavailable, and the same Cub fans who were split on the Garza trade are hardly likely to criticize the Cubs for not mortgaging the entire farm system for a front office guy who will be available for free in a year. With Byrnes in house, the Cubs would not miss a beat heading into the coming offseason.

    And if Ricketts did that, I think we would see Boston leak all kinds of nasty things about the Cubs and Epstein, quietly buy out Epstein’s contract during the winter, and Epstein would be settling into his new office in Chicago well before spring training started.

  • bboliger

    Luke,

    Great post. Every Cub fan knows the Cubs are going to be bad next year, so even if we have to wait until of next year to sign Espstein, no big deal. Byrnes is more than capable of running the team until Theo comes on board.

    Also, agree with the other poster who said Bud needs to get involved. This is ridiculous. Just because Lucchino holds a grudge against Theo for wanting to leave he thinks he can ask for the world. Come on, they thought the Cubs should give them Garza? No chance. Bud needs to step in because it would set a horrible precedent. The small market teams would never be able to sign a front office man from a major market because they would demand numerous top prospects, lots of cash, or both.

    The PR nightmare would all be on the Red Sox side as they’d look like a bunch of spoiled kids who didn’t get their way. Cub fans don’t want the farm system raided, so they would understand and we’ve waited 100+ years for a WS, what’s another year.

  • bboliger

    Luke,

    Great post. Every Cub fan knows the Cubs are going to be bad next year, so even if we have to wait until of next year to sign Espstein, no big deal. Byrnes is more than capable of running the team until Theo comes on board.

    Also, agree with the other poster who said Bud needs to get involved. This is ridiculous. Just because Lucchino holds a grudge against Theo for wanting to leave he thinks he can ask for the world. Come on, they thought the Cubs should give them Garza? No chance. Bud needs to step in because it would set a horrible precedent. The small market teams would never be able to sign a front office man from a major market because they would demand numerous top prospects, lots of cash, or both.

    The PR nightmare would all be on the Red Sox side as they’d look like a bunch of spoiled kids who didn’t get their way. Cub fans don’t want the farm system raided, so they would understand and we’ve waited 100+ years for a WS, what’s another year.