Report: Epstein close to joining Cubs

It's been pretty clear that Theo Epstein has been at the top of the Cubs' wish list for general manager for some time.

According to one outlet in Boston, the Red Sox GM could be on his way to Chicago sooner rather than later.

The Boston Herald, citing “two baseball sources,” reported Tuesday that Epstein “is on the cusp of leaving” the Red Sox to join the Cubs in a job that will include powers greater than he has in Boston.

The Boston Herald reported that an announcement was expected to be made “within the next 24 to 48 hours.”

The Cubs declined Tuesday night to comment on the story as has been team policy since chairman Tom Ricketts announced the firing of former GM Jim Hendry in August.

There were other cautionary notes sounded Tuesday. One is that the Cubs and Red Sox must agree on compensation for Epstein, who still has another year to go on his deal in Boston.

Veteran baseball reporter Peter Gammons, who has been plugged into the Boston scene for decades, tweeted that “reports are ahead of decisions.”

It also must be remembered that Epstein resigned as GM of the Red Sox in the fall of 2005, only to go back in January.

Epstein, who turns 38 on Dec. 29, engineered world championships in 2004 and 2007. The 2004 title broke a “curse” that dated to 1918.

The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908, and if Epstein were to come here and get the Cubs to the promised land, that would all but pave his way to a spot in the Hall of Fame.

The Red Sox have had the luxury of enormous resources in recent years as they have competed in the rugged American League East with the New York Yankees and the upstart Tampa Bay Rays.

But Epstein also has embraced modern-day baseball thinking that includes advanced statistical analysis, something the Cubs have been slow to do and something Ricketts has said he wants. Noted stats guru Bill James has been part of the front office in Boston.

Those who know Epstein say he is a good listener and consensus builder. If he does come to Chicago, he will inherit a front office that has a farm director (Oneri Fleita) and a scouting director (Tim Wilken) already in place.

The Cubs will have to get creative with job titles. They already have a team president in Crane Kenney, a holdover from the previous ownership.

Ricketts has said the new GM will report directly to him, and not to Kenney. So it may be that Kenney gets a gussied-up title and that Epstein may be given the title of GM and president of baseball operations.

A rift between Epstein and Boston management appears to have developed since the end of the season, when the Red Sox blew a comfortable lead in the wild-card race, only to see Tampa Bay win the spot.

The Red Sox, apparently at the behest of those above Epstein, fired field manager Terry Francona, with whom Epstein is close.

The new Cubs GM must decide the fate of current field boss Mike Quade, but Epstein may want to bring Francona (who played for the Cubs) with him.

Boston management has remained largely silent on Epstein's future in recent days, only fueling speculation that his days there were numbered.

With the Cubs wanting public funding for major renovations to Wrigley Field, the hiring of Epstein, if it happens, would give the Cubs an instant shot of prestige.

Theo Epstein is just what the Cubs need

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