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.