Relax, Cubs fans!

Brett on Bleacher Nation has done a fantastic job rounding up the Theo rumors over the past week. It’s been one of the few sites I even bother to check for info. It’s something that would drive most people mad seeing as how conflicting the reports are. The only quibble I have with any of the reporting has been how the Chicago media and their fans have tried to pin the delay on the Sox.

When the negotiating began we expected the Red Sox to ask for Starlin Castro and Wrigley Field. Instead, it appears they only asked for Matt Garza, which was a hell of a lot less than I thought they would. We expected the Cubs to offer someone like Matt Camp. Instead, they seemed to have offered cash, which is considerably more than I expected. That’s how negotiations work. You offer as little as possible and move toward the center.

From the Cubs perspective, there’s no reason whatsoever to pay a penny more than you have. As a result, you offer the least amount possible when the negotiation begins. You then begin to offer more and eventually settle on something more reasonable.

It’s the exact opposite for the Red Sox perspective. They’re asking for billions in value and will come down to something more reasonable.

Factor in that there is discussion about who Theo can and can’t take with him from the Red Sox organization, and how it may even be part of the compensation discussion, you can see how it would take a lot of time.

People seem to be under the illusion that the two sides are in constant contact with one another. I get the impression some think there are 187 phone calls per day going back and forth, but when you consider the number of people you’d need to consult with, it’s quite likely there is only 1 call each day between the owners. My guess is that it is a very civil discussion and they exchange some names and work toward getting a deal done. They hang up and Tom calls his guys. His guys call their guys and their guys call them back and Tom’s guys call Tom back and we’re at dinner time. Tom thinks it over, maybe calls one back and they get back to one another at 10 pm before bed. The same thing happens in Boston.

There’s still no reason to think the deal will fall through. What are the Red Sox going to do with Theo if this deal doesn’t go through? They’ve already appointed a GM and even if they get a take-back, it would be the second time it’s happened to Cherrington. He’d be none too pleased and may even walk out the door. The Red Sox can’t risk that. Are they going to employ a GM who doesn’t even want to be there? Some have said they could just demote him to some irrelevant role, but are we even sure they can do that? Theo and the Sox do have a contract with one another. That contract states that Theo Epstein is the General Manager of the Red Sox. I’m sure these guys who sign these contracts are smart enough to put some kind of clause in there that does not allow for them to be demoted. It’s probably why it has never happened as far as I know.

So the Red Sox may very well be left with the option of firing him. If they do that, he’s available to the Cubs for no compensation other than the salary Theo would get.

This is why I don’t buy that the Red Sox have all the leverage. They certainly do have some leverage. Theo is their employee so they obviously have some leverage, but this has gone so far that there is no turning back. Taking Theo back as GM would undoubtedly piss some front office people off. Some of them would certainly leave their job. Some guys already promised promotions aren’t going to accept a demotion without a fight. Some will leave. Maybe even the guy they have pegged as the future GM. The team has spent a lot of time trying to make sure that their front office is taken care of if Theo leaves and this is about the worst thing they could do to ensure that.

There’s no way the Red Sox are going to allow that to happen. They may very well be in violation of the contract if they demote Theo in some way leaving Theo to sign with the Cubs for no compensation.

Not to mention, both teams stand to lose a considerable amount if this falls through. Tom Ricketts is going to be the guy who couldn’t get a deal done for the best GM in the game. It was right there and the difference between Theo in Chicago and elsewhere was some measly prospect who may or may not be any good. John Henry has already taken a beating and there’s so much more to harp on there, but seeing several front office people leave with Theo back would be yet another disaster. There would be no way Theo would re-sign beyond the one year remaining on his contract. The Red Sox will be seen as  the team that stood in the way of a person’s professional advancement. Others won’t be eager to work for the Sox because of that.

Both sides have leverage here. The Cubs want to pay as little as possible to the Sox to get Theo and the Sox want as much as possible. There are a lot of little things to work out. This kind of transaction doesn’t happen quickly and there’s no reason to rush into it. If Ricketts had rushed into this he’d have given the Red Sox Matt Garza. By taking his time that is out of the question and so apparently is Brett Jackson. Now Ricketts is trying to make it out of the question that they get Trey McNutt. Maybe he succeeds. Maybe not. Either way, it’s exactly what you want to see here.

Give this some time. I’d like it to be done so we can move on to more important business, but I don’t want the Cubs to pay any more than they have to. It’s difficult to believe any announcement would come today. Tom Ricketts would presumably like to introduce Theo at Wrigley Field and all reports still have Theo in Boston. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a deal gets done quickly today and Theo flies to Chicago to be introduced as the new GM. I don’t know how much of an issue Selig would have with the Cubs announcing it tomorrow afternoon prior to the start of the World Series. That’s more likely than today, but if Selig doesn’t want it then it’s probably not going to be finalized until after the World Series. My guess is that it won’t be finalized until after the World Series. It’s not that big of a deal. What pressing business matters do the Cubs have that can’t wait 10 days?