UPDATE: The Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox just reached an agreement on compensation. The Red Sox will receive relief pitcher Chris Carpenter and both teams also will exchange a player to be named later.
Pitchers and catchers have reported, and the Red Sox have yet to receive compensation for Theo Epstein. Speculation on what and when the Sox will receive anything in return for Epstein has been widespread. The commissioner’s office has been involved since Epstein took over as Cubs president.
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Bud Selig seemed to take a hard line stance from the inception of the deal, often suggesting that an agreement will be reached soon. That does not seem to be the case. Rightfully so, the talks take a backseat to more pressing league issues like the collective bargaining agreement.
Granted, the situation is unique. Epstein is essentially tasked with striking a deal for, well, himself. Hard to maintain objectivity when it’s a question of self worth.
The inability to reach an agreement prompted the office of Selig to intervene. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, both Epstein and Boston GM Ben Cherington have submitted written statements to plead their cases.
Precedence does not appear to favor the Sox. Similar deals for Ozzie Guillen and Andy McPhail yielded nothing more than low-level prospects and a little bit of cash.
During an interview on WEEI 850, Epstein himself expressed his opinion: “Throughout the history of baseball, there’s really only a handful of instances in which there has been any compensation, whatsoever.”
Sounds like Theo’s idea of what’s appropriate is vastly different than some of the rumors that have floated around out there. A current major leaguer like Matt Garza is going to be completely off the table.
Getting Garza was a pipe dream from the start. He is a well-established big leaguer with top-of-the-rotation stuff. It makes sense for Cherington to suggest the deal, but Epstein must have immediately taken him off the table.
Names like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters have floated around the hot stove, as well. Jackson is rated the best overall prospect in the organization by Baseball America and seems an unlikely candidate.
Vitters is ranked lower but is destined for a major league roster spot in the next few years. Don’t expect him to be part of the negotiations either.
Andrew Cashner might have been acceptable to Cherington, but the big right-hander was shipped to San Diego, allowing Epstein to reacquire 1B Anthony Rizzo. With Cashner’s potential to return to a starting role, it seems improbable Epstein would have used him as a bargaining chip anyway.
Don’t look for Rizzo to make it full circle and end up back in Boston either. He is a top-100 prospect, and Epstein can’t have any intention of letting go of him a second time.
Gaining Rizzo also seems to make Bryan LaHair expendable. His minor league power numbers jump off the page, and Epstein may have plans to move him to the outfield if, and when, Chicago is able to shed Alfonso Soriano from payroll.
Troubled starter Carlos Zambrano may have served as an agreeable piece in the deal, too. Zambrano had fully outgrown his welcome in Chicago through a series of on- and off-the-field tirades, and Boston is clearly in need of a fourth or fifth starter. Turns out Theo had other plans. Zambrano was also traded, heading to Miami in exchange for Chris Volstad.
If Selig sees fit to grant Boston’s wish of major league talent, someone like Reed Johnson may fit the bill. Johnson has a full no-trade clause and may be reluctant to join a bench already filled with utility outfielders.
Looking deeper into the Cubs farm system, you’ll find guys like Ryan Flaherty, a native New Englander, who may be acceptable. Although as a recent addition to the 40-man roster, Boston may find Epstein hard-pressed to relinquish him.