We have reached the weekend, and the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox remain in intense negotiations regarding the compensation the Red Sox will receive from the Cubs for allowing Theo Epstein to sign his new 5 year, $20 million contract with the Cubs to be their president of baseball operations and general manager. Negotiations are going at a slow pace and that has created the typical fear from Cubs’ fans. Every Cubs’ fan lives under the motto “what could go wrong, will go wrong.” Imagine the fear growing in Cubs’ fans as the days pass by with no agreement between the Cubs and Red Sox.
Cubs’ fans, there is no need to worry. The process of Epstein joining the Cubs’ organization is so far along that is nearly impossible to think that the deal will fall through at the last-minute. One story making the rounds around various news outlets is how Billy Beane was all but hired by the Red Sox after the 2002 season to be their general manager, and then a last-second change of heart by Beane killed the deal. Beane remained in Oakland, while the Red Sox hired Epstein and the rest is history. Such a scenario like what transpired between Beane and the Red Sox in 2002 is not going to happen with Epstein and the Cubs. Months before the Cubs reached out to Epstein, the soon to be former Red Sox general manager told Red Sox owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino that he was not going to return to the organization once his contract expires after the 2012 season. Once the Cubs’ general manager position became available, Epstein had his sight on it and speaking to Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts is what sealed the deal for Epstein.
Now the Cubs and Red Sox are in a staring contest waiting for the other side to blink. The Cubs prefer to pay the Red Sox cash, while the Red Sox are seeking player compensation. There will have to be some give and take on each side. Though, to say that the Red Sox have the leverage in the negotiations would be a naive comment. The Red Sox have already named Ben Cherington as their new general manager, Henry has already spoken of Epstein’s time with the Red Sox in the past tense and Epstein has already made it known that he does not want to be with the Red Sox organization. Having said that, the Red Sox are prepared to pay Epstein to sit at home if they do not get the deal they are looking for from the Cubs. However, that would be a PR nightmare for the Red Sox upper management, and once cooler heads prevail, the Red Sox will likely come down from their steep demands.
The idea of player compensation for Epstein is still a controversial one among Cubs’ fans. The Cubs are going to have to give up some form of player compensation in order for the deal to get done. But no such deal will include Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, Brett Jackson, or Trey McNutt. In the case of Jackson, while he is viewed as the Cubs’ top prospect, many fans appear to be over-evaluating him. Jackson is going to be a good major league player, but in comparison to Matt Szczur, Szczur is the better prospect and will likely be the better major leaguer. Cubs fans will be able to witness that competition play out, as neither Jackson nor Szczur will be the player compensation for Epstein. There are still whispers going around that pitching prospect Jay Jackson will be a part of the player compensation package going to Boston, and the Cubs may have to include another lower-level prospect and some cash to finalize the deal.
Keep in mind that the MLB restricts teams from making any official announcements during the World Series. The World Series is scheduled to start next Wednesday, and the Cubs are hoping that they can make an official announcement before then. That would mean that an agreement on compensation between the Cubs and Red Sox would have to be in place by Monday or early Tuesday in order to allow the Cubs to make an official announcement on the Epstein hire before the World Series begins. I fully expect there to be an agreement in place before the World Series begins, thus allowing the Cubs to begin their off-season activities.