October 2011

10/20 Red Sox owner: Solution “not close”

Theo Epstein continued to work at Fenway Park Thursday while the Red Sox and Cubs discussed compensation options to allow the 37-year-old general manager to take over baseball operations in Chicago. No news conference was scheduled at Wrigley Field for Friday, which is the travel day for the World Series. Several reports said Epstein could be introduced at that time, but such an announcement would have to be approved by MLB because of the blackout imposed during the World Series. CBS Sportsline reported Thursday no one from the Cubs had asked MLB for permission to hold a news conference.

Depending on where you were, resolution was either imminent or not close. On Thursday, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago and ESPNChicago.com both reported the two teams were close to finalizing an agreement to bring Epstein to Chicago. ESPNChicago.com quoted a “source with knowledge of the negotiations” as saying, “The two sides are on the 5-yard line.”

However, Red Sox owner John Henry told the Boston Globe Thursday the deal was “not close.” Boston assistant GM Ben Cherington, expected to be promoted when Epstein leaves, also told the Globe that reports of a deal were “premature.” Baseball sources also confirmed to MLB.com that it was too soon to say the deal was complete.

ESPNBoston.com reported the deal was delayed so the Red Sox could review Cubs’ prospects medical exams.

The Cubs would not comment on the reports.

Multiple reports have Epstein hiring Jed Hoyer, currently the Padres’ general manager, to become the Cubs’ GM. The Padres were not expected to ask for compensation for Hoyer.  Epstein also was expected to add Padres assistant general manager Jason McLeod to the Cubs staff, according to multiple reports. McLeod was the director of amateur scouting in Boston with Epstein. Among the players he picked in the First-Year Player Draft were Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholtz, Daniel Bard, and Justin Masterson.

— Carrie Muskat

10/20 Waiting for Theo, Day 9

Cubs officials remain quiet regarding their negotiations with Theo Epstein to take over baseball operations. There are reports that a decision could be announced Friday but MLB commissioner Bud Selig will have to give the go-ahead. Major League Baseball  imposes a blackout on all announcements during the World Series. Friday is a travel day for the Series.

As of now, Cubs official say no news conference is scheduled, and talks are ongoing.

The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that Epstein would be named head of baseball operations, agreeing to a five-year deal. Jed Hoyer, currently the Padres GM, was expected to join Epstein and take over the Cubs GM duties. As of now, Epstein is reporting to work in Boston.

“Theo does go into the office every day,” Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino told the Boston Globe. “But Ben Cherington is playing a larger role than he has in the past.”

Epstein also was expected to add Padres assistant GM Jason McLeod to the Cubs staff, according to FoxSports.com. McLeod was the director of amateur scouting in Boston with Epstein. Among the players he picked were Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholtz, Daniel Bard, and Justin Masterson.

Cherington, who is Epstein’s assistant, was expected to take over the Red Sox when Epstein leaves.

— Carrie Muskat

10/20 Winter ball update – UPDATE

Bryan LaHair is en fuego. He belted his sixth home run for Magallanes in Venezuelan Winter League play Wednesday. LaHair, who hit 38 homers for Triple-A Iowa this year, was batting .357. Meanwhile, Cubs prospect Marwin Gonzalez went 1-for-5 with three RBIs in Caracas’ 12-3 win over Caribes.

In Mexico, Hung-Wen Chen picked up his second save with a perfect ninth as Mazatlan beat Mexicali, 9-6.

* Also, outfielder Brett Jackson will play for Team USA in the Pan Am games in Mexico. The U.S. squad faces the Dominican Republic team Thursday. Jackson had to come out of his last game during the World Cup because of a minor foot injury.

— Carrie Muskat

10/19 McNutt: “I thought it was a joke”

Trey McNutt was roughed up Wednesday in his third Arizona Fall League start, giving up four runs, two earned, over 1 2/3 innings. What surprised him even more was to hear that he was rumored to be one of the players mentioned as possible trade bait for the Cubs to acquire Theo Epstein.

McNutt can only hope he has better luck than Hector Trinidad.

In 1994, the Cubs agreed to terms with then-Minnesota GM Andy MacPhail and Trinidad, a Class A pitcher, was dealt to the Twins as compensation. The pitcher never made it to the big leagues.

Now, the Cubs and Red Sox are negotiating so Theo Epstein can take over baseball operations in Chicago.

McNutt, a 32nd-round pick in 2009, has been rumored to be one of the players the Red Sox are targeting. He’s just trying to get back on track after an injury riddled season with Double-A Tennessee. He missed time because of blisters and a bruised rib cage suffered in a collision with teammate Josh Vitters.

The right-hander didn’t know he was in the middle of the Epstein-to-Cubs talks until his Mesa Solar Sox teammates told him.

“I just thought it was a joke and then they showed me and I was like, ‘It’s for real,'” McNutt told WEEI in Boston after his start Wednesday. “I just didn’t think [the Cubs] would trade me because we need the starting pitching. But anything can happen. that’s just how the world works.

“[The rumor] just caught me by shock,” McNutt said. “I just didn’t think my name would be brought up, so I’m just going to sit and wait and see. Nothing’s probably going to happen until after the World Series, so that’ll probably be this time next week. You just kind of sit around and wait. Either way, they’re both good organizations. If they do trade me, sometimes organizations have to do things they don’t want to do and that’s just the nature of the game.”

The Cubs do need starting pitching, but also a general manager. Epstein, who will be 38 in December, apparently has agreed in principle to a five-year deal with the Cubs, and could be named president of baseball operations. There are reports that Epstein would bring Jed Hoyer, now the Padres GM, to Chicago and Hoyer would handle the general manager duties. Epstein would oversee the baseball operations, and be given a different title.

“I know he did a hell of a job with the Red Sox over there,” McNutt said of Epstein. “Brought them two World Series. He’s a good GM, one of the better ones out there. I think if we get him, he’ll do a good job in the Cubs organization for sure.”

There were reports that the Cubs and Red Sox could complete the negotiations on Thursday. However, Major League Baseball imposes a blackout on all announcements during the World Series, which began Wednesday in St. Louis between the Cardinals and Rangers.

Apparently, McNutt is the last to know.

“I dont know what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s out of my hands. I’m just trying to focus on pitching out here and trying to get better. You learn to take everything in stride, really. You don’t take the game for granted. You go out there and work hard every day and that’s all you can ask for.”

— Carrie Muskat

10/19 AFL update – Wednesday’s game

The Mesa Solar Sox rallied for a 6-5 win over Scottsdale on Wednesday in Arizona Fall League play. Trey McNutt, who reportedly has drawn interest from the Red Sox in the Theo Epstein talks, started and gave up four runs — two earned — on five hits and one walk over 1 2/3 innings. Chris Carpenter picked up the win, pitching one inning in relief. Cubs prospects Junior Lake was 2-for-5, Josh Vitters 1-for-3, and DJ LeMahieu 1-for-4. White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino hit a two-run single in the ninth for the game-winning runs. The Mesa team plays host to Scottsdale on Thursday at HoHoKam Park.

— Carrie Muskat

10/19 Gammons on Cubs-Red Sox talks

MLB Network’s Peter Gammons had some interesting comments on Boston’s WEEI radio Wednesday regarding the lengthy negotiations between Red Sox and Cubs over compensation for Theo Epstein. Here’s a transcript:

“This thing with the Cubs, they don’t actually have anyone negotiating that actually has been in development, so they don’t know the players the Red Sox talk about,” Gammons said. “They have the CEO of business, and the assistant general mnager, who wasn’t actually involved in the farm system. So, it’s been a difficult negotiation. And frankly, I think everyone involved knows the Cubs are a bottom-three farm system. Trey McNutt would be Red Sox prospect [No.] 25. For the Cubs to act like they’re giving up the next Billy Williams is kind of absurd.

“But at the same time, holding that thing up has also hurt the Cubs, because they need Theo there building the organization,” he said. “There isn’t a lot there. They need him to go out and not only find a manager, but to fill several roles in scouting, development and all the rest. The absurdity has hurt the Cubs, and it’s certainly hurt the Red Sox, because they need to move on and let Ben [Cherington] take over, Ben and Mike Hazen, be running the organization and get the right people in place. …

“It’s so silly,” he said. “The rebuilding process that Theo is going to undertake in Chicago is far greater than the job that he inherited as the general manager of the Red Sox. Far greater. And it’s going to take a long time. They’re not talking about guys that are franchise pieces. They should get it done from both sides and move on. …

“The [Cubs] need to move on, making this a long, long process, the Red Sox hold the cards in this situation, except for the fact that the Red Sox need to move on, too,” Gammons said. “I actually think it might get done today at some point. I think if they get the thing done, then they can anounce it Friday and then it’s all fine. By then, Theo can have things lined up and start talking to people about whether it’s Jed Hoyer or Josh Byrnes he brings in, who he brings into scouting.”

— Carrie Muskat


10/19 AFL & winter ball updates

Junior Lake hit a solo homer in the eighth and drove in another run and DJ LeMahieu added a three-run double in the sixth in Mesa’s 12-9 loss to Salt River on Tuesday in Arizona Fall League play. Lake also stole a base, his ninth. Marcus Hatley gave up five runs on six hits in one inning of relief work and took the loss. On Wednesday, Mesa travels to Scottsdale to play the Scorpions. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. MT.

* Bryan LaHair homered for the third straight game but it wasn’t enough as Magallanes lost to LaGuaira, 6-5, in 11 innings in Venezuela.

* Steve Clevenger was 1-for-2, drew two walks and scored a run for Escogido in a 5-3 win over Gigantes in the Dominican Republic. Cubs prospect Chris Rusin started, and gave up one run on three hits over four innings, striking out three.

— Carrie Muskat

10/18 Could Hoyer join Theo with Cubs?

If Theo Epstein can’t bring any of his staff from the Red Sox, he may try to bring current Padres GM Jed Hoyer to Chicago. According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Cubs and Epstein are interested in having Hoyer join the baseball operations department. If Hoyer did go to Chicago, Josh Byrnes would be elevated to Padres GM.

Heyman says a move by Hoyer, 37, would be seen as “shocking” because he’s already a GM. The Cubs, however, could give him the same title and name Epstein team president. If not Hoyer, Heyman says Byrnes could be the one to go to Chicago with him. Byrnes has been working as VP of baseball operations in San Diego.

The Cubs and Red Sox are still trying to agree on compensation for Epstein, who reportedly agreed to an $18.5 million, five-year deal last week. However, what Heyman didn’t mention is that Hoyer is two years into a four-year contract with the Padres, with a club option for 2014. The Cubs may have to compensate the Padres as well, which would be costly considering the length of his contract.

Hoyer became the Padres GM in late 2009 after having served as an assistant for Epstein in Boston. Byrnes also worked as Epstein’s assistant before becoming GM of the Diamondbacks, who he led to the NLCS in 2007 before being dismissed during the 2010 season.

— Carrie Muskat

10/18 Mesa ready to go

Groundbreaking is expected next spring or summer for the Cubs’ new Spring Training facility, which received a vote of approval Monday night. The Mesa city council voted 6-0 to approve the package to allow it and the Cubs to design and build the $99 million Spring Training complex. Mesa now has a 30-year deal in place to build the stadium and manage it with the Cubs, who have called the city its Spring Training home since 1979. The city also can sell parcels to the team for the so-called “Wrigleyville West” entertainment complex.

Mesa officials and the Cubs have been negotiating terms since voters approved the deal last November by a 2-1 margin. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said the Cubs will pay any expenses exceeding $84 million for the stadium and $15 million for related projects. Scottsdale-based Hunt Construction Group was named the contractor, and was awarded $380,000 for the design phase of the project. It will seek competitive bids on the subcontract jobs.

Mesa officials expect the complex to be finished in time for Spring Training 2014. The new facility will be located at the southeast corner of the Loop 101 and Loop 202 in west Mesa and replace the Riverview Golf Course.

— Carrie Muskat

10/18 Waiting for Theo, Day 7

On Oct. 27, 2009, a travel day during the World Series between the Yankees and Phillies, the Cubs held a news conference at Wrigley Field to announce the Ricketts family had completed the sale of the ballclub. MLB discourages teams from announcements during the World Series but made an exception for the Cubs that year. Could that happen again so the Cubs can name their next general manager?

One week ago, reports surfaced that the Cubs and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein had agreed in principle to a five-year deal. But Epstein has one year left on his contract, and the two teams have been discussing compensation and who, if any, of his staff can accompany him to Chicago. The two teams can set their own deadline to complete negotiations but Game 1 of the World Series between the Cardinals and Rangers is Wednesday night. No news conference was scheduled Tuesday for the Stadium Club at Wrigley Field.

The Red Sox apparently are trying to restock their pitching in the Minor Leagues. There were reports the Red Sox aimed high and asked for starter Matt Garza as compensation but the Cubs rejected that option. Boston was believed to be targeting right-hander Trey McNutt, who was currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. A 32nd-round pick in 2009, McNutt battled blisters and a bruised rib cage this season at Double-A Tennessee and was 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA in 23 games. McNutt, 22, was 10-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 25 starts at Class A and Double-A in 2010.

Another arm in the mix could be right-hander Chris Carpenter, a third-round pick in 2008, who pitched in relief at Tennessee, Triple-A Iowa and briefly with the Cubs this season. But Chicago doesn’t have much depth in the system, which was evident this past season when the Cubs lost Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells to injuries after their first starts and struggled to fill their spots in the rotation.

There is some precedent. In 1994, after agreeing to terms with Twins GM Andy MacPhail to become president and CEO, the Cubs sent Class A pitcher Hector Trinidad to the Twins as compensation. Trinidad never made it to the big leagues.

Interim GM Randy Bush has handled the Cubs day to day operations the last two months, but there are decisions to be made once the World Series ends. Free agency begins five days after the final out. The Cubs staff also is on hold. Manager Mike Quade is under contract for 2012 but only hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is believed to be signed for next year. The others have contracts that expire at the end of October.

In Epstein’s nine years as GM, the Red Sox won two World Series and reached the postseason six times. What’s that worth? Friday is a travel day for the Cardinals and Rangers. Perhaps Cubs and Red Sox followers will find out then.

— Carrie Muskat