Cubs

Red Sox cant keep Epstein around forever

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Red Sox cant keep Epstein around forever

READ: Next Cubs GM will face great expectationsREAD: Cubs keep eye on Epstein, Friedman

Amid the silence, two baseball-obsessed cities are waiting to hear what Theo Epstein wants to do with the rest of his life.

Long before Epstein became a legend in Boston, Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry and chief executive officer Larry Lucchino saw his potential. They wouldnt comment directly on the reports that the Cubs have asked for permission to interview Epstein.

But during Fridays radio appearance on WEEI, they spoke broadly about the general managers future. A spectacular September collapse the Red Sox went 7-20 and finished in third place for the second straight year already pushed out manager Terry Francona.

Theres a certain shelf life in these jobs, Henry said on the Dennis & Callahan show. You can only be the general manager if youre sane. You can only be the manager for a certain amount of time. Its a tremendous pressure-cooker here, 162 games. Its a long season, and the pressure here is 365 days.

So Theo is not going to be the general manager forever. Just as if Tito (Francona) had come back for the last two years (on his contract), would he have gone past 10 years? I cant imagine that he would have. I think that Theo will. Hes the guy now. Hes been the guy. Weve had tremendous success. We fell apart at the end of the season.

Were upset about it. No fan could be more upset than I am about the result this year. But hes done a tremendous job for us over (the) years.

The Red Sox executives were asked a hypothetical question about whether Epstein would be allowed to interview anywhere else.

There is a certain protocol in this game, Henry said, and it is if someone asks permission for a job thats not lateral, then you give them permission. Thats just the way it works.

The Cubs could offer Epstein a new title, like president of baseball operations, as well as a direct report to ownership. Chairman Tom Ricketts has been consistently supportive of team president Crane Kenney, who could remain in charge of the business side within a reorganized front office.

Kenney has roots in the Boston area and has frequently drawn parallels between Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and their shared history. This is a blueprint that team executives would like to copy. Lucchino indicated that the Red Sox receive interview requests every year about team personnel.

A few years ago we got a request from another team about Theo Epstein, Lucchino said. You heard nothing about that because we didnt discuss it publicly. Theres good reason for it, too. There are some privacy considerations here. I dont know that people would want their career development or their job decisions to be debated publicly or for people to know what theyre considering or not considering.

And Im not sure the other team, necessarily, would like that to be made public. So our consistent policy and practice has been not to discuss whether theres been a request made.

Back in November 2002, when the Red Sox made Epstein the youngest general manager in baseball history, he wasnt even their first choice. But Billy Beane had second thoughts and decided to remain with the Oakland As and play Moneyball.

Epstein is now 37 years old, with two World Series rings and a lot of things to think about. The Red Sox arent saying which way hes leaning, or even acknowledging that the Cubs have reached out for help.

If it gets out and he doesnt gothen somebody looks bad, Henry said. Either the team looks bad that asks him and he said no or if he goes and interviews for the job and doesnt get it.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

SAN DIEGO — Theo Epstein's front office has a lot of difficult decisions to make this winter, but Ben Zobrist has yet to come up with his own tough answers.

The 2016 World Series MVP is currently a free agent after wrapping up his four-year deal with the Cubs. He played a major role on the team in September following a four-month absence to deal with a family matter. 

Zobrist, 38, said at the end of the season that he was unsure if he would call it quits after an impressive career or return for another season on the diamond. More than two months since he last put on a uniform, he still has not reached an answer:

If he does play another season, it would have to be in the right situation for his family. He's made enough money in his career and accomplished plenty — including hoisting a couple championship trophies — but he clearly still had the drive and desire to play, as he said in his September return.

The Cubs figure to be on the short list of teams that would make sense for Zobrist given the mutual familiarity, a home in Chicago and how the entire organization supported him as he stepped away from the team to address his personal life.

It would seem to fit from the Cubs' perspective as well, since they talked all season long about how they missed Zobrist's professional at-bats and his presence inside the clubhouse. 

But there is no traction on the reunion front at the moment.

"I haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said Monday. "I've talked to him since the season ended, but it was more just checking in on his family. As far as baseball, he hadn't made a decision at that point. He was gonna wait a while before deciding what to do. He left open the possibility, but that was it."

The Cubs have an avenue for playing time next season at second base and potentially in the outfield for Zobrist and they are currently searching for leadoff options. He proved he can still play at his advanced age by hitting .284/.388/.377 in September after months away from the game. He isn't an everyday guy anymore, but can still provide value as a role player.

If Zobrist decides to give it one more go, the price would have to be right for the financially-hamstrung Cubs, but a reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

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USA TODAY

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

Could we see a Willson Contreras-Joe Maddon reunion in Los Angeles?

According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” and are having “active conversations with two teams” regarding a trade for a catcher.

Torres didn’t specifically mention Contreras, but he’s one of several Cubs who have been linked to trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs aren’t looking to enter another all-out rebuild, but they’re keeping the future of the organization in mind following a disappointing 84-win season.

The Cubs farm system has grown barren of impact talent. They’ve struggled to develop big-league starting pitching under team president Theo Epstein. Their payroll is projected to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, meaning they’d encounter a 30 percent luxury tax on their overages and see their draft position drop 10 spots, should they exceed the $208 million threshold by $40 million or more.

Trading Contreras — who’s projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration next season — won’t solve the financial problem. However, trading him could net the Cubs the type of blue-chip prospects they desperately need to replenish their farm system.

Contreras is also under team control through 2022, so there’s not a huge rush to deal the two-time All-Star. But if the Cubs sense he’s unlikely to sign a contract extension now or in the future, they must do their due diligence on him and see what they could acquire in a potential trade. The same is true for Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

The Angels have one top 100 prospect, (outfielder Jo Adell — No. 5 overall), according to MLB Pipeline, so what Los Angeles could offer the Cubs is questionable. Epstein and Co. won’t trade their backstop for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any offers to be unsatisfactory.  

Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs last season. He’d be a major addition for the Angels, whose catchers posted a combined .221/.293/.344 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. The 27-year-old also has a special bond with former Cubs/current Angels manager Joe Maddon.

Contreras posted a heartfelt good-bye to Maddon on Instagram after the Cubs announced they weren’t retaining the manager for 2020. Contreras later commissioned a painting of he and Maddon as a gift for his former skipper.

Monday, Maddon said it’s “weird” to hear Bryant and Contreras mentioned in trade rumors, adding that he likes both players. 

The Angels aren't definitively linked to Contreras and Epstein recently advised to take rumors with a "mouthful of salt." But considering the Angels are reportedly seeking a catching upgrade, it won't be a surprise to see that change soon.