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You like chickens? You like counting them before they hatch? Well welcome to Chicago, where such endeavors have turned a public relations boon into a potential nightmare.

Throughout much of September, the Cubs search for a new general manager following the dismissal of Jim Hendry was a story for what a non-story it was. The Cubs new owner, Tom Ricketts, promised a stealth search and certainly honored that by simply not talking to anyone. It forced many questions about Ricketts and the influence of team president Crane Kenney, but in retrospect, the club was simply waiting for their top target to become available. The Cubs reportedly covered their bases by talking to potential candidates such as Dan Evans and Josh Byrnes, but when the Red Sox gave Ricketts the gift of a September collapse, the Cubs pounced, getting a deal done by the end of the first round of the playoffs. Epstein surprised much of the industry by agreeing to terms with the Cubs, much of it because of what he'd be leaving: a franchise that has finished third in each of the last two years and seems to be reacting to it with an unprecedented scorched earth policy. “I was just surprised to see him want to go out like that,” said one insider.

This is where things get complicated, as while the Cubs may have a deal done with Epstein, that's not the only deal to be made. With one year remaining on his contract, Epstein can't move to the Midwest without the two teams working out a compensation arrangement. Basically, the Red Sox need to trade Epstein to the Cubs in order for him to become the team's next general manager.

So now, nearly a week since news of a deal became public, there's been no official press release, no press conference, no confirmation that it really was Theo at the Starbucks in Lincoln Park. Multiple reports have compensation talks between the two organizations at a standstill, but what is being missed is the reason why. This isn't over what the Red Sox get back in compensation for Theo going as much as it's over the organization getting compensated for their anger while getting the last word in.

Make no mistake, the Red Sox have the leverage here simply by holding the most desirable asset in the negotiation. That's business 101. Adding to the difficulty for the Cubs is that Ricketts has now wasted more than a week with the promise of a new savior of a general manager, yet in reality, he doesn't have him in the fold.

Theo is a wonderfully talented general manager, but the Red Sox lose little here. Ben Cherington, one of the brightest candidates for the role in all of baseball, is set to become the new general manager with the Red Sox, and the people and processes there are still in place. The Cubs are the team with no general manager and a World Series about to start, during which time they cannot announce a hiring. The Cubs are twisting in the wind here while the Red Sox have already all but moved on. Of course they still want Epstein as their general manager, but they're also resigned to the fact that it's just not in the cards, while knowing that the Cubs have put all of their eggs in this particular basket without looking at the bill.

Making things more difficult for the Cubs is who Ricketts is staring down across the virtual table. Red Sox team president Larry Luchino is, to put it kindly, an intense individual, and his clashes with Theo are generally seen in the industry as one of Epstein's primary reasons for bolting. With the Red Sox blowing a playoff slot, this negotiation is his World Series, and he's not exactly known for blinking.

This is going to get done. Compensation will get figured out, press conferences will take place, and Cubs fans will get excited about their future. I keep saying that, but with each day that we wait, my confidence wanes. Not on any extreme level but at least to the point where instead of acting like this is a sure thing, it simply seems highly probable. Negotiations last week were one thing; negotiations with 48 hours to go before the Cubs have to wait another week for an announcement? Something entirely different, especially with one source close to talks on Sunday classifying Boston requests as “ridiculous combinations.”

With both League Championship Series ending at six games, these talks suddenly gain a little more of the spotlight until Wednesday, which could end with even more confusion in a series of events that seem more choreographed by the Marx Brothers than experienced baseball executives.

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mmontice
10/17
I don't see how the Red Sox have leverage. What are they going to do, bring Epstein back, demote Cherrington and have a terribly awkward season with all parties acting like nothing happened, especially between Lucchino and Epstein? Or if the awkwardness is too much to bear, are the Red Sox going to pay Epstein $8M (or whatever it is) to hang out on a beach for the next year? There just seems to be too many bridges burned for the Red Sox to clearly have leverage.
mrdannyg
10/17
Epstein isn't coming back as anything more than a clubbie at this point - don't think anyone would contest that. But yes, the Red Sox have the option of simply paying Epstein's salary while he hangs out on a beach somewhere. Not ideal, but a few million to the Red Sox is almost nothing compared to the Cubs position if they can't get their superstar GM. The Red Sox might not have all the leverage, but in the short term, they certainly have most of it.
mmontice
10/17
I'll take a guy that can do 90-95% as good of a job and not give up top prospects to get him. That's my leverage if I'm the Cubs. Also, regardless of Red Sox riches, $8M is a lot to eat on a GM.
dethwurm
10/17
Sure, but that's exactly how the Sox have leverage: they have the asset so they can name the price, and the Cubs can either capitulate or get something that's not quite as good, or at least isn't the thing they wanted most. Regarding burned bridges, I agree it's highly unlikely but it's not practically impossible (in the sense that they literally have the contract) that they'd keep Epstein and have him just collect paychecks while other people run the show. It's also worth remembering that they had a similar awkward situation a few years ago, when Epstein quit for a few months then came back.
mmontice
10/17
Doesn't an asset lose value value for the owner when it is no longer useful? So let's say I retool a factory and have a piece of equipment that while now useless to me, can be very useful in another factory, so I put it on the market for sale. Can I really try to charge a steep price for it if that asset will otherwise remain unused and take up valuable space in my factory (eg Epstein's salary that can be used elsewhere)? I guess that's how I see it.
mark1623
10/17
Mike Brown says hello.
rposborne
10/17
Theo may not have much value to the Red Sox, but he is clearly very valuable to the Cubs. Hence Red Sox having him gives them the upper hand and ability to press the Cubs hard on what he is really worth to them.
sandriola
10/18
The difference between the Epstein situation and your example is that the factory equipment doesn't have a contract that runs out next year.
cdgarosi
10/18
And the Red Sox have shown a willingness to let Theo walk previously. Remember the gorilla suit incident? Cherington and Hoyer were co-GMs for a bit and then Theo came back to the Sox after wandering around Beantown. If I'm the Red Sox, that's my response to the Cubs. Ricketts: Yea, well, you won't keep him around so why don't you just make the deal? Lucchino: Remember, we did this once before so feel free to call our bluff. Ricketts: ----
whanson
10/19
What if was a (near) unique piece of equipment that could help make another company a lot of money?
knockoutking
10/17
well...does a guy who can do 90-95% of the job theo can truly exist on the market?
AlexHoefer
10/17
Yes they are lots. Lets not act like Theo is this god of a GM all the sudden.
mark1623
10/17
The problem is that the Cubs already appear to have hired Theo. Getting anyone else will be a PR disaster.
thatfnmb
10/19
PR doesn't matter to the Cubs. Rickets could hire Bozo the Clown as a GM who pitches every 5th day and Wrigley will still sell out.
mattymatty2000
10/17
I'm pretty sure the Red Sox don't owe Theo Epstein $8 million for one more year of his contract. If he was making that much, why is his new deal in Chicago for less than half that amount?
thatfnmb
10/19
Rumor is he'll make $3MM in 2012 plus a $5MM parachute if they don't extend him.
drewsylvania
10/18
Who is this GM that can do 90-95% of Theo's job?
kgoldstein
10/17
It's somewhere around 7 million, and to stress, I STILL VERY MUCH THINK THIS WILL GET DONE, I wouldn't put letting Theo twist in the wind past Boston.
mattymatty2000
10/18
The Red Sox pay Theo Epstein $7 million per year? And he's signed a 5 year deal for under $20 million total to go to Chicago? I have no inside information, but that doesn't sound right.
kgoldstein
10/18
Epstein earns out a $3.5 million balloon payment at the end of his current contract. There are also some other bonuses that earn out.
mattymatty2000
10/18
Ah. That makes more sense. Thanks for the clarification, Kevin. Question, do you know if any part of the negotiations are the Red Sox attempting to get out from under that financial obligation either by passing it on to the Cubs or by forefitting it entirely?
SaberTJ
10/17
Not a great start to a new Cubs era. This situation is like playing a high stakes poker game where your opponent already knows your whole cards.
fieldofdreams
10/17
The logic behind this post makes no sense. You can't know if this is just "anger" or not. The fact is the Sox own the asset and can demand the price they deem suitable, the Cubs can choose to pay or not. The fact that the the Sox "lose little here" is totally irrelevant. You would surely never claim that a team should give away a great player b/c they have a good prospect to take his place. I know it is frustrating that there is no "news" on this front, but posting ill-informed illogical speculation doesn't add anything here.
drewsylvania
10/17
Yeah, there's really nothing on Lucchino here other than conjecture. What I'd like to see is evidence. Sure, there's plenty of anecdotes, but I'd like something harder to go on before I demonize Lucchino.
kgoldstein
10/17
I spoke to many people close to the situation, who chose not to go on the record. I wouldn't call it conjecture.
drewsylvania
10/17
That's good to hear, Kevin. You're a source I trust, so it means more when you call something credible.
judyblum
10/17
Seriously, why do people keep acting like the Cubs or Epstein are being victimized? If you want something that belongs to someone else, they get to decide how much it costs, and you have to pay the price, or you can't have it. Grow up and negotiate for what you want or shut up and settle for something else.
deepblue64
10/17
They should have at least had the parameters for this deal in place before agreeing to let him talk to the Cubs, doesn't reflect well on either side.
kgoldstein
10/17
I totally agree with this statement.
Behemoth
10/17
More of an error by the Cubs, really. The Red Sox could have realised that they would maximise their leverage by negotiating once the Cubs decided they wanted Epstein.
yeamon
10/17
Kevin, I hear your criticism of the Cubs counting chickens while they are still eggs in one basket and all, but if they were counting quietly behind closed barn doors like they promised, what are you criticizing? To an outsider, it appears nearly ALL of the information being leaked is flowing from East to Midwest. All of which creates much of the Red Sox leverage. Is there another approach you believe the Cubs should have taken? Most of the criticism I'm reading about this current situation begins from a history the Cubs organization has of executive level ineptitude and failure (lots of rotten eggs in the broken basket). We all know the history. What I'm interested in is how the Cubs are overcooking THIS chicken.
kgoldstein
10/17
It's a fair statement, but like a previous commenter said, I think there is an order of operation issue here with the Cubs.
jasemilw4
10/17
Obviously, the Cubs could have done this much smarter. But the Red Sox aren't going to bring Epstein back. Heck, they were thinking of firing him before this year anyway, if I recall. We all know they are finished with each other. So for Luchino to now want some ridiculous sum for Epstein is stupid and petty. Luchino's name is at stake here. The Cubs are a big trading team. I wouldn't want their new owner to hate me forever.
yeamon
10/17
"Obviously, the Cubs could have done this much smarter..." Honest question... How? I'm an outsider, so I don't know how these deals play out between teams. I know in business NDA's are fairly common on inter-company deals. Would it have been possible for the Cubs to hold the Red Sox to an NDA, prior to receiving permission to speak to Theo? I'm having a hard time imagining that would work.
michaelsobrien
10/17
Yeah, hard to see how the Red Sox are the ones with the leverage once Henry came out and basically said Epstein was gone. Ricketts hasn't said a word. He can easily move on to another candidate.
knockoutking
10/17
i think you fail to understand basic business sense. whoever has the asset that the other group wants has the leverage. period. if the cubs really want someone else, they can move on. but for now, 100% of the leverage lies with the red sox
michaelsobrien
10/17
Epstein is no longer an asset to the Red Sox. He's dead weight.
kgoldstein
10/17
That's like saying WHATEVER pitcher the Rays decide to try to move this off-season to open a spot for Matt Moore is "dead weight."
mmontice
10/17
Not true. Please see above It will be very hard for a company to ask for a premium price on an asset that it can no longer use. Sure, you can always be a hero and ask for the moon, but you run the risk of getting nothing and having to continue to pay for an asset that is now worthless and unusable to you. The Cubs also run the risk of not getting what they want, and having to move to the next best alternative. Not ideal for them either. So what you have, at least in my opinion, is a pretty even situation.
michaelsobrien
10/17
Agreed mmontice. And I think that's why the process has dragged on longer than expected, because it is a pretty even situation.
mmontice
10/17
Yep, for sure. If one side was calling all the shots, I would venture to guess a deal would have been made much sooner.
AlexHoefer
10/17
What is the leverage of the Cubs to make this even. They could just pull out but then they walk away with out the GM they wanted and egg all over there face. The Sox have all the power because they can sit back and ask for Castro and Jackson and see at what level the Cubs will give in. If they where on equal footing then they would have worked the deal out quickly.
mmontice
10/17
Just because you don't take home the 9 at the bar (Epstein), doesn't mean you aren't happy taking home the 8 or 8.5 at the bar (other candidates). I get what the Red Sox are doing, and appreciate the tactic. It's called anchoring, which means you ask for the moon knowing that it can lead you to get more than you would expect if you had initially asked for something reasonable. It can also ruin negotiations by pissing off the other party into walking away. Its a bit of a gamble. Either way, it doesn't mean you are negotiating from a point of leverage.
chuckmotl
10/17
You can have Jackson, he really isn't that good... (And Selig has said that major league players can't be traded, so no Castro for you)
kgoldstein
10/17
I think it's dragged on because the Red Sox keep asking for a ton.
jj0501
10/17
I would think the Cubs would have seen the contract ring on his left finger and asked some questions before making a proposal.
gareth31
10/17
How is the ongoing hysteria in Red Sox nation going to affect their relationships with the rest of MLB? It's starting to get a little play in the UK with regard to how they might react if Liverpool, their football club, don't achieve as much as they expect in the current season. Given the animosity that has been directed at the Fraser family at Man Utd and the previous owners Hicks and Gillette, this doesn't seem a wise way to protect their reputation or investments.
tradeatape
10/17
Wild Conspiracy Theory--is it possible the Cubs are waiting in order to make an splashy announcement of both GM and manager, e.g. Epstein and Terry Francona? Circumstantial Evidence for Wild Conspiracy Theory--Francona disappeared from the Fox broadcast booth right after the Epstein hire was 'leaked'. (As a Tigers fan, I was relieved that the White Sox did not hire Tito.)
chuckmotl
10/17
I thought it was Terry's father who was the one named "Tito".
smallflowers
10/18
"Tito" is Terry's nickname as well.
jrfukudome
10/17
When the rumors about Theo's deal with the Cubs came out, the Red Sox should have publicly stated that they wanted to keep Theo. Instead, they jumped the gun and named Cherington the GM. They then appeared to realize (belatedly) that they had some leverage over the Cubs and are now attempting to exert it, but the leverage would have been much greater had they not named Cherington. The Sox may still get something out of it, but it seems like a clear misstep to me.
mattymatty2000
10/17
They haven't officially named Cherington the GM yet. And principal owner John Henry did say he wanted to keep Theo. He said it to Theo then he said he said it on the radio in Boston.
briant1
10/17
I cannot imagine MLB letting the Red Sox stash Epstein away in a closet because one of the higher ups is in a snit. This will reflect poorly on the Red Sox, and set a terrible example for future GM negotiations. This will get worked out one way or another, even if Selig has to step in and appoint an arbiter. For everyone insisting the Red Sox have 100 percent of the leverage, what is to stop the Cubs from leaving Bush in charge for a rebuilding year, and hiring Epstein in 2012-2013? It's not ideal, but it's essentially what they did this year. If the Cubs have decided to stay out of the Pujols/Fielder sweepstakes, then they can continue to pour money into the minor leagues, and make cosmetic changes to the major league club until everyone but Soriano's contract is off the books. Again, not ideal, but workable.
RallyKiller
10/17
The Cubs dug their own hole by neglecting to settle the issue of compensation with the Red Sox before finalizing terms with Theo, but they have also been played by the Sox. Remember when John Henry said he didn't expect Theo to remain the GM forever and that 10 years is a long stint? The implicit message was that the Red Sox expected him to depart in the near future and weren't fussed about the situation. After receiving that signal, the Cubs took the bait and the Sox yanked on the line to set the hook. Now the Cubs should play hardball: Simply sit back and nurse a few beers through the World Series while ostensibly continuing their search. That will stir the cauldron in Boston to a boil. If the Red Sox reduce their demands, reel in the catch; if not, move on within a week after the Series. Let's face it: The egg on Cubs faces would ultimately wash off if a competent alternative were selected. Remember, too, that while Theo is attractive, he is also a prima donna. And, there are several metric-conscious assistant GMs who could do a comparable job. One, Rick Hahn, works for the cross-town White Sox. As the job would be a distinct promotion for him, so any complications should be minimal.
mattymatty2000
10/17
Theo is a prima donna? Where exactly did you come across that information?
tnt9357
10/18
"And, there are several metric-conscious assistant GMs who could do a comparable job. One, Rick Hahn, works for the cross-town White Sox. As the job would be a distinct promotion for him, so any complications should be minimal." Yup. If I'm the Cubs, I quietly start looking at 1A) (Hahn) and others. Could the next steps below work? - Get a tentative deal with someone else, with an expiration date of one week (3 days?). - Tell the Red Sox they have that same time frame to make a deal. The question becomes: Will Hahn (or whomever) accept that they might still not get the job after negotiating terms?
cachhubguy
10/17
It just seems to me this has taken the shine off the Red Sox organization. They appear to be bitter and petty by not allowing Theo to take a promotion after all his contributions to their organization. They don't seem to care about that and that's fine. But other players and executives are watching how they might be treated if they go to Sox in the future.
mattymatty2000
10/17
They DID allow him to take a promotion. They are the ones who let him talk to the Cubs, something they weren't obligated to do considering Theo is under contract to them for another year. I don't see how extracting the most value for a prized asset is "bitter and petty."
dethwurm
10/17
Is there any chance the Red Sox are negotiating with other teams (i.e. the Angels)?
kgoldstein
10/17
There is absolutely no indication of this whatsoever.
Richie
10/17
The Red Sox have all the leverage until the Cubs make credible moves in pursuit of an alternative.
briant1
10/17
The Cubs haven't said word one since this began, so they could be making all sorts of credible moves in pursuit of an alternative, and we wouldn't have the slightest idea as to what is going on.
Richie
10/17
And it doesn't count saying, "hey, I have alternatives too, ya know! I do!! I really do!!!" I mean, don't any of you guys have girlfriends? (me neither, but just pay attention to your coupled friends)
Richie
10/17
Ummm, 'credible' means 'believable'. You can't believe what you don't know about. So quietly pursuing the alternatives defeats any deleveraging purpose in doing such.
mattymatty2000
10/17
It makes no difference if the public knows there is an alternative (at least as far as the negotiations go) but the Red Sox should certainly know about it.
xenolith
10/17
Kevin, what do you think would be compensation for the Cubs to give to the Red Sox? How much is a GM worth?
kgoldstein
10/18
I honestly don't know. I really just don't have a good feel for it. But as we are seeing, the Red Sox think it's significant.
onegameref
10/18
I think you look at what the Pale Hose received for Ozzie and gave up and it amounts to not much. The Cubs have lots of suspects known as former prospects they could transfer to the Sox. Colvin, Vitters, LeMahieu, Castillo... If they want McNutt I say they should send him along and be done with the charade. There is no precedent for getting the top prospect of an organization in this situation. Colvin could be sent down to allow for the transaction to occur if major leaguers are not allowed. I think the Cubs should stand firm and not give up their top guy even if that guy is not an A prospect. Jackson would still be valuable in trade and that is why he should be kept.
cdkasdin
10/18
Isn't this really about the Cubs getting Epstein 1 year early? The Cubs are going to lose close to 90 games next year regardless of who the GM is. So why not have Randy Bush stay on, run the team next year, keep things simple (no long term contracts), take your 90 losses, and then bring Epstein in after his Red Sox contract expires after next year? The Cubs hold more bargaining power here than they are getting credit for.
sho044
10/24
One reason would be the draft in the middle of the season, as well any trades that could be made during the year... Maybe Theo gets someone to bite on Soriano. Or maybe having Theo on board would help give Pujols the warm and fuzzies about signing with Chicago. That might be worth a good amount on it's own.
mhmosher
10/18
So who is the more overrated GM: Theo or Billy Beane. Epstein is good, but he inherited most of the 04 team and has made several horrible free agent signings. Other the other hand, he did make key trades in 04 and built the 07 team. And he won two priceless championships. He's good, but I'm not sure how much the Sox lose. Enjoy Prince Fielder Cubs fans, because you know that's coming. Typical Theo move.
lesmash
10/19
I would suggest that the Cubs do not have nearly the pressure on them that many here seem to think. Were I in the Cubs' front office, I would give Boston a couple of different offers for Theo Epstein and a timeline with which the offers are on the table. If Boston passes, then I explain to my fan base that we did all we could to get Theo Epstein without giving up our top prospect in Jackson but just couldn't get it done. We decided that keeping the on-field talent trumped getting that particular GM. I think that kind of openness, clarity, and valuation would be accepted by the majority of Cubs fans.
michaelsobrien
2/08
Anyone still think the Red Sox have the leverage?