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Talks between Cubs, Red Sox for Theo Epstein have turned “increasingly contentious”

Oct 15, 2011, 8:50 AM EDT

Theo Epstein AP

And you thought this would be easy, huh?

David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com reports that talks between the Red Sox and Cubs regarding compensation for Theo Epstein have turned “increasingly contentious” as the two sides remain “far apart” on an agreement.

In fact, one baseball executive with knowledge of the parties involved says that Red Sox president Larry Luchino is “trying to make it very difficult” for Epstein to formally take the job with Chicago.

“Larry Lucchino is one of the most unreasonable people I have ever dealt with and because of his frayed relationship with Theo Epstein he is looking to make a point at the expense of Theo’s happiness and his desire to go to Chicago. I didn’t believe that ownership group for one second when they said that they wouldn’t stand in Theo’s way if he wanted out of Boston. They are furious that he wants out and they are trying to make a point. Theo helped bring them two World Series titles and they have no loyalty to him and his happiness. They messed with Terry Francona and that was just an incredibly pathetic move and now they are trying to make life very tough for Theo,”  he said.

While the Red Sox are reportedly playing hardball and demanding top prospects, this negotiation is a bit more complicated than originally thought, as Epstein would like to bring some of his trusted assistants along with him to Chicago. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe speculates that Red Sox head trainer Mike Reinold and VP of baseball operations Brian O’Hallaran could be involved.

There’s no set deadline on talks, but if the two sides don’t reach an agreement before the World Series begins next Wednesday, they will have to wait to make it official.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Oct 15, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    I told you guys yesterday that John Henry has lost it and that was before his Crawford comments. In the past week he has been responsible for bad mouthing Tito while out the door, bad mouthing is LF while simultaneously digging at Epstein, trying to make life difficult for Epstein, and trying to destroy the EPL by selling individualized team TV rights. The pressure is getting to him. Somebody needs to tell him to settle his ass down and shut up.

    • paperlions - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM

      Henry made his money as a futures trader….aren’t these guys the jackholes that are responsible for escalating prices by re-selling futures instead of taking ownership of them (as was required before they bought enough politicians to have their trading de-regulated). He made his money by gaming the system (pretty much like everyone else that makes money on wallstreet these days), not by actually doing anything or producing anything. These guys are the worst kinds of economic parasites…and are not used to being gainsaid by their lowly employees.

  2. proudlycanadian - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Time for Bud Selig to step in. Given the turmoil in the Red Sox last season, the divorce had to happen and John Henry should stop behaving like a jilted spouse.

    • JBerardi - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:29 AM

      Yes, get Selig in there. Clearly, the man who personally engineered Henry’s ownership of the Red Sox is the guy best suited to be a neutral arbiter of this dispute.

      • cur68 - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:09 PM

        It’s bad optics for MLB in general. Things are in a dodgy state with the Mets and the Dodgers as it is; 2 of the premiere franchises in MLB. No one wants to see drama like this between the Cubs and the Sox; distracting from the game, reeks of politics, and has a fat-cat investor as the bad guy. Does that sound like a recipe for attracting more fans? Selig might not think so.

        In fact there’s another really good reason Selig should get involved; Epstein is a curse breaker. Getting him to the Cubs might see overall interest in baseball tick up a notch as people everywhere wait to see if Theo can do for the Cubbies what he did for the BoSox. Then there’s the Sox drama to think of; can they remain relevant without Tito & Theo? It would be good for baseball in general to get in the middle of this hairball and tell the relevant parties to stop acting like spoiled kids.

      • Old Gator - Oct 15, 2011 at 5:04 PM

        I weary of reading about the adventures of assholes. Don’t you?

    • jwbiii - Oct 16, 2011 at 1:21 AM

      Bud Selig is the owners’ puppet. He does nothing, except form a committee, without a consensus of a majority of the owners. Do you think a majority of the owners want to restrict the right of an owner to smack around the hired help?

  3. Panda Claus - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    Contentiousness is bad for the Cubs but worse for the Red Sox, Epstein, Lucchino and Henry. The only positive in this may be the good theatrical value it provides for us.

    I have a feeling the longer this draws out, there will be more and more cracks exposed in the Red Sox leadership hierarchy. They’re starting to appear more petty with every new statement they make. Even if they eventually agree on terms, this may get too ugly to adequately cover with a big happy red bow and smiles at the end.

    There could be animosity that stems from this to last for years.

    • bigharold - Oct 15, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      I agree most with you points that the RS are showing a side of themselves that would best be not shown but this is worse for the Cubs. The RS apparently have his replacement in house so it wouldn’t be an issue if they merely tell him “you’re it” get started on next season.

      Epstein, on the other hand, has to go to the Cubs, evaluate every aspect of the club, from it’s current 40 man roster to it’s farm system. At every level, players and non players he has to determine who he keeps who he throws over board and what the general direction of the franchise. And, while he doesn’t have to make every change immediately, the clock is ticking. If nothing else, the FA periods starts in about a month. He’ll need to be ready otherwise it will seriously undermine his fist year.

      The longer it goes on the worse it gets for the Cubs not the RS. And the longer it goes on the more retaliatory it appears from the RS owners.

    • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:31 PM

      “appear more petty”

      exactly how is this the case?

      The Red Sox have the leverage. Henry wants Theo to stay. The Red Sox have a suitable replacement in Cherington.

      Yes the Cubs have more to lose, but that’s the risk you take when you play a high stakes game of poker such as this.

      If this deal falls through, perhaps Henry is prepared to make an offer to Theo to extend him at a substantial raise.

      We don’t know.

      My sense is, that the Cubs will end up with Theo when Ricketts realizes he can’t get his man without paying a hefty import tariff.

  4. legacybroken - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    The amount of mud being slung by Henry, Luchino and the rest of the Red Sox braintrust the less attractive the team will become for potential GM’s, managers and players.

    • proudlycanadian - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:47 AM

      Henry has already thrown Epstein under the bus with his comment about not wanting to sign Crawford. He has given Epstein permission to make a deal with the Cubs so obviously he wants him gone. Now he is being greedy by demanding a lot from the Cubs.

      • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:39 PM

        Spoken like a Canadian socialist.

        I disagree that Henry’s comment about Crawford represents throwing Epstein under the bus. Crawford has played one season here. In time, Henry could look as though his viewpoint was incorrect. You just can’t judge a signing based on one season – especially with a player of Crawford’s abilities.

        He granted Epstein permission because Epstein has the respect of Henry and its a professional courtesy. The Cubs offer is far more substantial in terms of compensation and responsibility than what the Red Sox are prepared to offer Epstein.

        Theo knew exactly how this process could play out. It’s Ricketts and the Cubs that are emotional over this, and it’s understandable . . . but if a deal for Theo falls through it’s because Rickett’s was being unreasonable and unrealistic about what he would have to give up . . . and not because the Red Sox asked for too much.

      • cur68 - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        ‘leagues; what’s with the “Canadian Socialist” crap? Henry clearly has gone public with anti-Theo comments. He’s literally told the world he disapproved of a move that Theo made than garnered a lot of press for being not so hot so far. These are not ‘relationship building’ moves. Theo Epstein is done with the Sox and, form all public comments, they with him.

        What’s “Canadian Socialist” about acting like a grown up, accepting a reasonable offer for an employee that you no longer want, and getting on with not looking like massive dick? Is it his guaranteed healthcare, stronger dollar, better looking women and finer national animal that your against? I mean, if so, come right out with man, none of this sour grapes, ‘political name calling’ stuff required. This isn’t a Democratic Primary election speech or something; it’s baseball. Only thing socialist about PC’s comments is that its on a free forum and you’re as guilty as he of that kind of socialism.

      • Alex K - Oct 15, 2011 at 4:56 PM

        cur- I was with you until the better looking women stuff. And the dollars are all but even, too.

        bigleauges- Do you know what’ being offered? How do you know that the Cubs are being unreasonable? Do you think the Cubs should just give the Red Sox whatever they ask for? If so, you’re being unreasonable.

      • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 7:11 PM

        cur68:

        I can’t help that I somehow touched on some bizarre insecurity of yours with my comment. It was not my intention. But, I can say my comment had very little to do with bringing politics into this (which is ridiculous) and far more to do with PC’s statement that Henry is being greedy – which is ABSURD.

        Two weeks ago, Theo was over-rated and deserved to be fired. Now Henry is the jerk because he the Red Sox are allegedly making unreasonable demands of the Cubs in exchange for letting Theo out of his CONTRACT.

        I almost allowed myself to be sucked into groupthink yesterday with regard to Henry and then, last night, I listened to the entire interview. You and others are welcome to attach whatever meaning you like to Henry’s comments about Crawford, but you are missing the point.

        Perhaps you are unaware of this, but going back to early in the season there has been a rumor on the street – and apparently conjured up by the Boston media – that Henry, Werner and Lucchino essentially ordered Theo to do whatever it takes to sign Crawford. Ownership wanted Crawford, as the fallacy goes, in order to boost NESN ratings which had allegedly sank in 2010 (another misstated factoid that Henry addressed directly yesterday).

        Henry’s appearance on the Sports Hub was completely unplanned. He heard what was being said and decided to drive directly to the station and confront what he felt were false conclusions being drawn from unsubstantiated facts.

        Thus, he did not offer his opposition to the Crawford signing as an indictment of Theo Epstein, but rather to refute a false rumor that had only gained steam in recent weeks. He also went out of his way to state that he keeps his distance from the baseball operations side of things; that whenever there is a large contract involved he and Werner obviously have to sign off on it, but that ultimately Crawford was Theo’s call.

        Take that anyway you like, but Crawford had one bad season, that also happened to be his first season in Boston. I for one am not ready to call it a bust and Henry certainly has not done so either.

        As for Henry has clearly gone public with anti-Theo comments . . . I’m yet to see one. Again, in yesterday’s Sports Hub appearance, Henry went out of his way to be effusive about Theo, stating that he’d prefer Epstein be his GM for the next 20 years. How is that anti-Theo?!?! Henry said it, not me.

        Henry avoided discussing the Epstein/Cubs/Red Sox situation yesterday because there has been no agreement reached.

        Want another fact that came out yesterday? Lucchino has ZERO years left on his contract – his agreement expires in December. Why haven’t they extended him yet? No one, and I mean no one, would argue that Lucchino hasn’t been great for the franchise.

        The angle that NO ONE seems to want to consider is that the Cubs negotiations fall through, Theo stays in Boston and Henry sits down with Lucchino and Theo and Henry tells Lucchino that he wants Theo to stay.

        If the reporting out of ChiTown is accurate, Theo will be for the Cubs a lot like Lucchino is in Boston – and he will have final say (except Ricketts) on all player personnel moves. Along with a significant bump in pay, why wouldn’t Theo be interested that?

        But also, the Red Sox, by allowing Theo to go through this process, they now have a gauge on what Theo is worth on the open market. If this deal falls through, they can sit down with him and make an offer that makes him happy. I don’t thinks its unreasonable to assume that all things being equal Theo would rather stay home and work for the Red Sox.

        So, bringing this all back to the Socialism comment . . .

        – The Red Sox are under zero obligation to let Theo out of his contract.

        – The Red Sox have a highly capable, suitable replacement already in house and ready to go.

        – Henry has stated as recently as yesterday, and many many times before September 2011 that he would like Theo to be GM as long as he owns the club.

        – Neither Henry nor the Red Sox have any obligation to help the Cubs, but they do have an inherent obligation to do whatever is best for the Red Sox.

        – None of us have an actual idea of what is being discussed. As far as we know Ricketts is whining to the media about Lucchino being unreasonable because the Red Sox have zero interest in a cash only compensation.

        So, tell me again, how are Henry or the Red Sox being greedy?

        Because they’re acting in the best interests of the franchise and not simply letting Epstein out of his contract because the Cubs want him?

      • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 7:14 PM

        Oh and I agree with Alex K when it comes to Canadian women. I mean ther are some great oasis of world class looking femaples – Toronto, Montreal . . . especially Montreal . . . but I’ll take the women of NY, Chicago, Boston and Miami every day of the week.

      • Alex K - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:06 PM

        bigleagues- The Red Sox have every reason to try and do what is best for their franchise, but so do the Cubs. You seem to be saying that there is no way the Red Sox are being unreasonable. You also don’t have any clue who the source was for this story, so you probably shouldn’t say that Ricketts is whining to the media when it could be any number of people.

        If the Red Sox are asking for Starlin Castro, Geo Soto, or a package of top prospects (like Jackson & McNutt together) then they are being very unreasonable.

  5. Tribe&Browns&Cavs - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I could see the problem being that the Cubs having a lack of players the Red Sox would want just because the franchise is such a mess right now, but I guess they do have the cash option.

    Maybe they should agree that the Cubs can choose three of the first five players Theo acquires and the Red Sox can pick one from that group. :-)

  6. 18thstreet - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I can’t believe I’m defending Lucchino. Here are some facts: Theo Epstein still has one year left on his contract. The Red Sox are not obligated to let him go. Larry Lucchino still works for the Red Sox, and his loyalty should be to the organization, not to one of its employees.

    What’s preposterous here is that someone — one baseball executive with knowledge of the parties involved — is being quoted anonymously to slam Lucchino and isn’t willing to sign his name to these accusations. But I think we know who this is: it’s a Cubs employee, someone with no particularly loyalty to Theo Epstein, either, but someone who wants to protect his franchise and not have to give up something of value.

    Everyone is doing his job. What’s unfair is the reporter allowing himself to be a stenographer for one side of the story.

    • D.J. Short - Oct 15, 2011 at 10:11 AM

      I agree with you. The Red Sox could pay Epstein to sit out for a year if it comes to it. They don’t have to let him go anywhere. I’m sure this will reach some sort of resolution in the next few days, but the Red Sox hold all the cards here.

      • ditto65 - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM

        While that is true, it follows the “We will not stand in the way if Theo wants out” statement (not sure on exact quote – but that is close).

        When you reverse on the first statement, you look kind of douchey.

        At least from where I am sitting.

      • paperlions - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:35 AM

        Agreed. They should be consistent. They are doing exactly what they said they would not do. If they had said, “we consider Theo to be vital to our operations and want to retain him at all costs” this would feel different….but that isn’t what they said. In the press they are all rainbows and ponies…in realitiy, they are ruthless jackholes (which is pretty much required in their lines of business).

      • aaronmoreno - Oct 15, 2011 at 10:29 PM

        DJ, the Red Sox hold the cards, but no one has to play the game. And what do you win if no one plays?

    • mplsjoe - Oct 15, 2011 at 10:15 AM

      The people involved in these talks are all adults who have been involved in hundreds of negotiations before. They know how the game is played. There is a difference between being a jerk and being a hard-headed negotiator. These guys know the line, and Lucchino apparently is falling on the wrong side of it.

      That said, getting your narrative into the media – Lucchino is a jerk who is stopping Theo and Cubs fans from being happy! – can be an important part of negotiation too. :)

    • JBerardi - Oct 15, 2011 at 10:27 AM

      I’m not going to make the argument that Larry Lucchino isn’t a perfidious douchebag, because that’s clearly a losing battle. And it’s hard to defend Henry at this point, if for no other reason than that he keeps Lucchino around. All that said, is there any reason these guys shouldn’t play hardball with the Cubs? I mean, what’s the proper reaction to a team that’s been openly trying to poach your GM for the last two months? I see no reason that the Red Sox shouldn’t absolutely maximize their leverage in this situation. It’s not like the Cubs are doing them a favor or something.

      • patsandsox - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:22 AM

        I still say the easy way out is make Theo (the boy blunder) take Lakey and Dicek with him. That would be the best possible compensation the Red Sox could hope for. Who knows those guys might actually do alright in the NL and it would get them out of Boston and do more than any prospects will ever do in Boston

    • aaronmoreno - Oct 15, 2011 at 1:10 PM

      Is this the first time an anonymous source has been used in Boston sports?

      • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:12 PM

        Not only do they use anonymous sources, they juxtapose statements out of context and draw conclusions that are disparate from reality, yet report as fact.

        Boston sports media = TABLOID JOURNALISM

    • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      I am going to flip-flop on my comments yesterday, because when I posted about Henry yesterday I had not yet listened to the entire Sports Hub interview.

      When listening to Henry’s explanation over much of what has been reported in the last week, it quickly becomes clear that the Boston sports media has spun out of control and is reporting innuendo and supposition as fact and literally manufacturing story lines and hot button topics out of thin air. In other words the line between entertainment and journalism has been completely obliterated.

      While Henry’s comments about Crawford were inadvisable but were, in a way, completely refreshing in that he was being completely honest about where he stood on Crawford.

      Henry flat out denied that ownership had anything to do with leaking the personal information about Terry Francona, despite Felger and Massarotti’s relentless attempts to get him to slip up. He also admitted that he was ready to extend Francona during the summer, but (without saying him by name) that Lucchino didn’t want to grant the option for the sake of granting the options. Since Lucchino is CEO of the baseball side of operations, Henry deferred to him. Henry then reiterated that before they could even get to the point of discussing the options or a new contract Francona indicated that he was ready to move on.

      If we believe as adults that not everything in life is black an white, that there are areas of grey in many if not most of what happens around us each day, then Henry’s comments ring true. If we apply a simple either/or view of events, then conclusions can and will be drawn that aren’t necessarily accurate, but makes for good columns and talk topics.

      As this all pertains to Theo, Henry again went out of his way to essentially state that he just assume Theo be the Red Sox GM as long as he owns the team. This may be entirely true ( as he has professed his love of Theo long before the Cubs came a knocking) or part of it may be now part of posturing for the best possible compensation package.

      I’d be surprised if the source of the comment in the piece above isn’t Ricketts. He has stuck his neck out far on getting Theo, and I can’t blame him for being frustrated.

      But, besides being illogical (which you would expect from someone who is emotionally invested in a high stakes end game such as this), what those comments alleges is a very petty and vindictive personality in Lucchino. Lucchino is a lot of things, but I doubt petty is one of them. You don’t have the successes in life that Lucchino has earned by being petty.

      But more to the point, if Lucchino’s relationship is so frayed with Theo, then why wouldn’t he be making it easy for him to leave?

      The fact of the matter is, as I have stated previously, is that the Red Sox hold all of the cards. They have an owner who would rather Theo stay and he is under contract for one more year. They also have their backup in plan, should Theo leave, already in place and completely up-to-speed. The Red Sox really do not miss a beat operationally whatever happens here. But if Epstein is going to be the guy, then Ricketts would prefer to have the whole things settled yesterday, so that Theo can hit the ground running come the end of the post-season.

      Add in that Ricketts apparently didn’t want to give up any players (completely unrealistic if not naive and delusional) and you have the situation we see before us.

      Lucchino probably wants to extract a king’s ransom and rightly so. Cubs fans may not like it, but if you want Theo then that’s the price you pay my friends.

  7. canowack - Oct 15, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Just give them Castro and it’ll make everything ok

    • 18thstreet - Oct 15, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      The Red Sox have Ygelisias waiting in the wings. Castro is pretty much worthless to Boston.

      • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:21 PM

        Iglesias can’t hit.

        I have yet to be convinced that the Red So truly view him as their long term solution at SS.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 16, 2011 at 1:37 PM

        And Castro can’t field. Given the pieces that are returning next year (plus an open spot at DH), they won’t have trouble scoring runs. They simply don’t need a shortstop who can hit.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 16, 2011 at 1:39 PM

        Here you go: shortstop fielding stats, sorted by UZR/150

        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=ss&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2011&month=0&season1=2011&ind=0&team=0&players=0

  8. tuftsb - Oct 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    It’s called negotiations, folks, The person with the power drives the deal and the Red Sox management has the power.

    If the Epstein deal falls through, who does it hurt? The Cubs, as they will choose a second hand GM instead of the person that has been advertised to fans as the savior. The Red Sox can let Epstein sit for a year if they want as mentioned above.

    It would be a business decision to let him go to a team that covets him without compensation – and truly foolish to let boy genius take RS employees with him.

    • Don Bashline - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      Hard for the Red Sox to just let Theo sit. If they don’t fire him and keep paying him, he’ll probably show up for work. And what do they do then? A year of lame duck Theo? Impossible. They’d have to sack him – that makes him a free agent, Sox get zero compensation but get to keep his 2012 salary. Why didn’t they talk compensation before granting the Cubs permission? Maybe ownership was too busy on WEEI to think of that.

      • bigleagues - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:25 PM

        Because the Red Sox give up leverage by agreeing to compensation before granting permission to speak with Epstein. In other words, it’s pointless to discuss a compensation package until they know if there is a committed interest to hiring Epstein.

  9. tomemos - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    “While the Red Sox are reportedly playing hardball…”

    There are so many jokes here I can’t choose one.

  10. silverdeer - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Being a Tigers fan, I really don’t have a stake in this one. However, I have to really wonder what the Red Sox brain trust has going through their heads. It appears that they ran Francona (maybe not but it appears that way), they have made it pretty clear that they feel that Epstein is no longer wanted and are now coming out publicly to say that some of their players weren’t wanted either. If, I am the Cubs, I show some patience and go with an interim GM this year and just wait for Theo’s contract to expire. The Sox either come back to the table with some reason or Theo walks away at the end of the year for no compensation.

  11. professor30 - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    sox don’t have to do anything. they can pay theo his 1.5 to scratch is ass and eat sausage on yawkey way all year and let cherrington run the team. they’re just trying to get as much as they can just like any baseball trade. castro for theo, and whoever he wants to take with him, done deal.

  12. 6ball - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    .

    @canowack

    ” just give them Castro and everything will be alright ”

    Are you nuts? The dude’s in his 80’s, and last pitched in 1959 for the Washington Senators. Furthermore, being a lifelong marxist dictator, he could be a problem in the clubhouse.

    Oh, I’ve just been informed that Castro is, in fact, a left hander. Sorry canowack, you were right. That would be a fair deal. My bad.

    .

    • canowack - Oct 15, 2011 at 12:47 PM

      Ever heard of Starlin? He’s pretty good…maybe you should pay more attention to baseball if you find yourself commenting on hardballtalk…

      • cur68 - Oct 15, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        can'; dude, joke all the way, seriously, you didn’t see that?

        6ball: *golf clap* & I’m sure he’d have to shave off that beaver pelt he has on his face, too; Brian Wilson owns the patent on that as far as baseball goes.

  13. tuftsb - Oct 15, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    All of the damned Red Sox stories are unsourced, lazy reporting by people relying on past narratives that attempt fit the opinions of the readers as opposed to being based on facts.

    I feel like I am reading Nancy Grace on baseball.

    • Erik Klemetti - Oct 15, 2011 at 12:01 PM

      Finally, somebody talking some sense here. Exactly.

  14. aaronmoreno - Oct 15, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Organizational chaos and backbiting are the new market inefficiencies.

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