ST. LOUIS – Despite a rash of reports hinting that talks between the Cubs and Boston Red Sox for general manager Theo Epstein were stalling or even crumbling, top-level Cubs sources stressed Wednesday a deal will be completed but the saga might stretch into next week.
And there is a growing feeling that Epstein will bring fellow GM Jed Hoyer of the San Diego Padres with him in a dynamic one-two punch to replace Jim Hendry. That likely would mean Epstein would be given a fancier title, such as president or CEO of baseball operations, and Hoyer would get the GM tag.
The fact the Epstein deal hasn’t been closed reveals the naivete of the Cubs’ management team, specifically president Crane Kenney. A major-league source said Kenney has bragged since September that he is leading this process, despite claims from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts that the former Tribune Co. executive wouldn’t be involved.
Whoever is leading the talks for the Cubs committed a major blunder by closing the deal with Epstein before signing off on compensation with the Red Sox. That gave the Red Sox’ brass – knowing the Cubs couldn’t afford to have the deal collapse at this point – huge bargaining power.
Teams typically work out compensation before moving to the next step, as the White Sox did last month in their talks to send manager Ozzie Guillen to the Florida Marlins. That goof by the Cubs has caused the Epstein talks to drag on longer than necessary.
Sources say, though, that Epstein has begun planning for life on the North Side, sizing up his staff and deciding whom he would like to pluck from the Red Sox’ front office. One intriguing name that surfaced Wednesday was Jonathan Gilula, the Red Sox’ vice president of business affairs, who played a key role in the Fenway Park renovations that dazzled Ricketts.
Ricketts has made it clear he would like to duplicate the Fenway facelift at Clark and Addison. A remodeling of Wrigley Field and the surrounding area has been at the top of Ricketts’ wish list.
Meanwhile, forget all the angst about whether such a splashy move can be announced during the World Series. The Cubs will get a green light from Major League Baseball to announce Epstein’s arrival during a scheduled day off Friday or Tuesday, sources confirmed.
There is precedent in this area, and it involves a Chicago team.
Shortly before the first pitch of Game 3 of the 2000 World Series between the New York Yankees and New York Mets, the Sox announced Ken Williams was replacing Ron Schueler as their GM, a move much more surprising than the ongoing Epstein saga. The Sox irked commissioner Bud Selig with that ill-timed announcement, but Selig still gave the green light.
This time around, MLB officials don’t think the Epstein hiring will upstage the World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals.
‘‘At this point, Theo going to the Cubs is hardly news,” an MLB official said before Game 1 on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer