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David Kaplan on M&M: Epstein deal ‘is basically done’

10.20.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan appeared on the Mut & Merloni show Thursday morning to share the latest news from Chicago on the continuing Theo Epstein saga.

Kaplan, who has been ahead of the curve on most reports from negotiations thus far, said sources told him the Epstein deal should be official by the weekend.

“I think the deal is basically done,” Kaplan said. “I think you will hear the agreement leaked out a little bit later today. I think tomorrow there will be a press conference at Wrigley Field to introduce Theo Epstein as the new president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs . . . I think then what you will see is probably three, four days from now, there will be another announcement that Jed Hoyer is coming in as the general manager.”

Kaplan said he still was not sure who would be included as compensation for losing Epstein, but claimed Cubs top prospect Brett Jackson and star pitcher Matt Garza would not be part of the deal. Kaplan also denied perceptions that the pressure in Chicago is less than that in Boston, saying Epstein has been likened to a god in Chicago because people expect so much out of him. Kaplan denied, however, that the Red Sox had the upper hand in negotiations, hinting that the Red Sox did not want him back.

“They have built Theo up to be the God here,” Kaplan said. “The messiah to come save the Cubs. But he couldn’t go back to work in Boston. There was no chance the Boston Red Sox were letting him back in the front office to make value decisions on that team.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. Give us your latest from your sources there in Chicago.
I think the deal is basically done. I think you will hear the agreement leaked out a little bit later today. I think tomorrow there will be a press conference at Wrigley Field to introduce Theo Epstein as the new president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs. People here are extremely excited. I think then what you’ll see is probably three, four days from now, there will be another announcement that Jed Hoyer is coming in as the general manager. That will begin the makeover of the Cubs front office which has traditionally been one of the smallest front offices on the baseball operations side in all of the sport. I think it is going to become one of the biggest now. Cubs [owner] Tom Ricketts is really stepping up in big way financially.

As far as the compensation goes, is there any word as to what it could end up being?
It’s not going to be our top prospect Brett Jackson. It’s not going to be Matt Garza. I do not believe it will be anyone of substance off the major league roster. I do believe it will be multiple prospects not just one. I think Trey McNutt will be in the deal although I haven’t confirmed it. And if you get him, he was the No. 48 ranked minor league player in Major League Baseball a year ago. He had a rough year this year. He did not have a healthy year. He dealt with I believe a severe virus he had for a while. It really sapped his strength. His command wasn’t that good. But he’s still our No. 1 pitching prospect.

I talked to Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus yesterday and he said, ‘Look. The Red Sox have a better farm system than the Cubs. There’s no shock there. But if he was a Red Sox farmhand, he’d be in their top 15.’
If you do get Trey McNutt, you’re getting a guy who will be a starter at the major league level. He’d be in your rotation at some point in the next two, three years. He’s a young kid. Very talented. It would be someone the Cubs hate losing because we don’t have much in the way of good pitching at almost Major League-ready status.

A lot of people are surprised the Red Sox didn’t demand a little bit more.
I disagree. I don’t think the Red Sox had all the leverage here. Because I’ve looked at the situation. It’s gone so far down the road. People can say what they want on the Red Sox side, but the relationship between Theo and [Red Sox president and CEO] Larry [Lucchino] is not the relationship he is going to have here. I can just tell you from a Cubs perspective. They are handing him the keys to the kingdom. They are going to let him make every decision in baseball. He is going to have unanimous power here. Tom Ricketts is not John Henry, he is not Larry Lucchino. He wants to win. That’s all he cares about. He doesn’t want to make one dollar on this team. He doesn’t make a salary from this team. He’s a billionaire in his own right. All he wants to do is end the most insane jinx, curse, streak in the history of professional sports. 103 years and counting without a championship.

He has identified Theo. He has basically said to him look, I’m going to give you $150 million a year. You spend it however you want; Major League, draft, international signings and then we’ll upgrade every other avenue of this franchise including the stadium, Wrigley Field, which needs a Major League overhaul, something like what you guys did at Fenway. In the end, I know he’s leaving his home town. I know he’s leaving a great franchise with great players. He’s coming to a franchise that’s a sleeping giant, that doesn’t have the Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays, or anybody else in the division that spend like the Cubs do.

If Theo does his job properly, it will go down here, they will rename Wrigleyville Theoville. That’s how big this is. I know people that are saying the pressure on him has been so insane that he has got to go somewhere else where the pressure isn’t as insane. I’m telling you the pressure is equal here to Boston. [Former Cubs manager] Dusty Baker had us five outs from the World Series in 2003 and they ran him out of town. [Former Cubs Manager] Lou Pinella won back-to-back divisions. He didn’t last two more years and they knocked him out of town, treated him like he was a babbling idiot. He’s going to be a Hall of Fame manager. There’s a lot of pressure here. But people are so excited about Theo that it’s the No. 1 story, bigger than the Bears.

What kind of role did Larry Lucchino have in this?
From what I’ve been told, Peter Gammons was on your station yesterday, and I’m not denigrating Peter. He’s a Hall of Fame writer. But for him to say that the Cubs have no one at their end doing the negotiating that understands their minor league system, it was [Cubs president] Crane Kenney and Larry Lucchino on the telephone.

Larry doesn’t know every single prospect in their system. Nor does Crane. So when Larry would ask for so-and-so, Crane would say I’ll get back to you. I will talk to Tim Wilken, our scouting director; Randy Bush, our interim GM, and our farm director, Oneri Fleit . They would give the thumbs up or thumbs down as to what’s too much to give up in compensation. The call would go back to Larry Lucchino and that’s how this whole thing took a long time to put together.

Boston is going to get a good package. They’re going to get players that they will be able to look back and say ‘Yeah, we made a pretty good deal, the best we could make.’

But yes, they have built Theo up to be the God here. The Messiah to come save the Cubs. But he couldn’t go back and work in Boston. There was no chance the Boston Red Sox were letting him back in the front office to make value decisions on that team.

In the end, both sides had to probably not be as entrenched in their positions. They had to get a deal done. And that’s exactly what they have done, because I can tell you, the Cubs were prepared to bring Jed Hoyer here and wait as long as they had to until Theo was able to extricate himself.

As you’re doing your work on this story, did you get that impression, that Theo wanted to start anew and maybe get a chance to be his own man?
People that I trust who have really good knowledge of that relationship have told me Theo will always feel indebted to Larry for the opportunity, for the chance to be the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, to be part of a team that won two world series, but in the end, Theo wants the chance to spread his wings, do something else other than work for Larry and John Henry. He’s coming here and he is The Guy. There is no Larry Lucchino. Crane Kenney will have zero say on baseball personnel matters. So if Theo decides he wants to trade Starlin Castro tomorrow, he will have the ability to do that. He will not have to sit down and convince Larry, John Henry, whoever it is. The only person he is going to have deal with is one guy: Tom Ricketts.

Tom has told him, unless you’re spending insane money where I have to approve a contract, you make whatever deal you think is right to get us a World Series. That’s all they care about. Tom has said two things: ‘I want the best customer service and I want to win a World Series.’ That’s what the Yankees have always said. That’s how the Red Sox have always acted. For the first time in my lifetime, and I grew up here, the Chicago Cubs are going to do everything possible to try and win. If in the end, I talked to a guy who interviewed for the job because Theo was not the only guy they interviewed, a guy who interviewed for the job told me, Ricketts was the most impressive owner he’s ever dealt with and he’s worked in multiple franchises. And he said in five years, if you guys aren’t getting to win it, it’s not on management. It’s on Theo and his team. They’ll be given every opportunity to win. If they don’t, it’s their own fault.

Is there any concern, you look at his recent history, it hasn’t exactly worked out great here.
Look, he’s made some bad deals. Jim Hendry made some bad deals here as well. Whether it was Milton Bradley, Kosuke Fukodome, Alfonso Soriano, we took some really bad risks. And Theo did as well. But when you step up to the plate and you try and win, and in Boston, you beat the Yankees and you win a World Series, or it’s a failure. You don’t win there because of where your franchise now is under Theo’s stewardship. If you don’t win the World Series, you had a failure of a season.

And that’s where we want to get to. It’s not, we want to play big games in September as Ed Lynch, our old GM said. Or ‘Oh God, we got to the playoffs. It was a rousing success.’ No. Did you get a ring or did you not? That means you’re going to take risks that are sometimes going to fail. I know they were collaborative decisions, but they are on Theo’s resume because he was the head of baseball ops. He was the guy that endorsed the signing of whether it’s Carl Crawford or John Lackey.

And I’m sure he’ll make his share of mistakes here. There is no perfect candidate to say ‘Done deal. We got the right guy.’ I don’t believe there is a perfect candidate. I think though, he is the best guy we could get to come here. With his experience in Boston, his youth, and his willingness and his hope for trying to turn this thing around. I think we hit a home run no matter what we gave up, other than the top two or three guys.

Am I wrong in assuming there will be more compensation going to San Diego for Jed Hoyer?
From what I was told this morning, there will be no compensation. I hear [Padres owner] Jeff Moorad wants Josh Byrnes to be his general manager. He had him in Arizona. They have a great relationship. What it sounds like is they’re going to just release Jed Hoyer. Could there be something small? I suppose there could. But from what I’m told, that will not be at all a problem.

So this thing gets leaked today, news conference tomorrow?
Yes. I would be shocked if I’m not standing at Wrigley Field tomorrow at a press conference. And if it doesn’t happen tomorrow, it will be Tuesday which is the next off-day of the World Series.

Read More: David Kaplan, jed hoyer, Larry Lucchino, Theo Epstein
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