Cubs, Red Sox agree: Epstein heads to Chicago
Finally, it's official.
Nearly two weeks after the Boston Herald first reported the move, Theo Epstein quit as Red Sox general manager to become the Cubs' president of baseball operations.
With the Cardinals and Rangers still playing in the World Series, neither the Cubs nor Red Sox will announce further details until Tuesday.
The two clubs issued a joint statement Friday night.
"The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs jointly announce this evening that, effective immediately, Theo Epstein has resigned from the Red Sox in order to become the new president of baseball operations for the Cubs. The clubs also have reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined for the Red Sox and that issue will be resolved in the near term.
"Both the Red Sox and the Cubs intend to hold press events on Tuesday, Oct. 25, during which the Cubs intend to announce Mr. Epstein, and the Red Sox intend to announce his successor as general manager.
"Out of respect for the World Series, both clubs have agreed to forego further comment until Tuesday, the next scheduled non-game day. Further information on each club's media availability for Tuesday will be distributed on Monday."
Compensation for Epstein appears to still be a sticking point, but the Cubs and Red Sox apparently feel a fair deal can be reached. If not, it is possible Commissioner Bud Selig will step in to complete the move.
While Epstein gets a better title with the Cubs, he is still expected to have the final say on roster decisions.
Once announced as the Cubs' new head of baseball operations, Epstein is reportedly going to name Jed Hoyer general manager.
Hoyer has apparently gotten the OK to leave the San Diego Padres, where he has been GM the past two seasons.
Hoyer worked with Epstein in Boston from 2002-09.
Epstein, 37, walks away from the Red Sox with a year left on his contract. He has reportedly agreed to a five-year contract with the Cubs worth over $18 million.
Epstein helped Boston end a title drought that reached 86 years when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. Boston won again in '07, but the Red Sox suffered a historic September collapse this season and failed to make the playoffs.
Can Epstein work similar magic with the Cubs, who have gone 103 years without winning a World Series?
That remains to be seen, but his first order of business in likely deciding whether or not to keep Mike Quade as manager.
The Red Sox are expected to announce assistant GM Ben Cherington as Epstein's replacement. Boston, which collapsed in September and missed the playoffs for a second straight year, must also find a new manager to replace Terry Francona.
Epstein brings a sparkling resume with him. He was hired as the youngest GM in major-league history in 2002 at the age of 28 and, two years later, was the youngest GM to win it all as the Red Sox broke a long championship drought of their own -- 86 years, not unlike the misery Cubs fans have famously endured.
Under Epstein's guidance, Boston went 839-619 (.575) in the regular season and 34-23 in the playoffs, winning more than 90 games in all but two seasons.
He acquired stars such as David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Jason Bay and Adrian Gonzalez, though he also will be remembered for bringing in high-priced players who fell short, including Edgar Renteria, Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey. This season it was Carl Crawford who didn't meet expectations after signing a fat contract.
He was also the guy who traded fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs in a four-team deal in 2004 -- sending him to Hendry, who watched Chicago blow the wild-card lead in the final week that season.
Epstein himself presided over two of the biggest meltdowns in baseball history, the 2003 ALCS loss to the Yankees and last month's disaster in which the Red Sox blew a nine-game lead in 25 days and failed to make the playoffs. No team had ever done that before.
While the Red Sox pick up the pieces of a collapse that includes reports of locker room disharmony and the departure of Francona, Epstein will have a long list of things to do in Chicago.
Ricketts wanted to make sure he got the right guy, someone who will build through a farm system and combine scouting with baseball's new formulas and math for statistical analysis.
As they try to build for the future a big question for Ricketts and Epstein: do they also go out and spend another big amount on a marquee free agent such as Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder who could make the Cubs instant contenders to snap the championship drought dating to 1908?
Epstein has a history of smart draft moves (Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz) and he has spent freely.
Matsuzaka cost $103 million, Renteria got $40 million for four years but lasted only one and J.D. Drew got a five-year, $70 million deal most thought was too much. Everyone is waiting to see if Crawford is worth his seven-year, $142 million deal.
When it worked, the Red Sox were the best team money could buy; when it didn't, like this season, they were overpaid malcontents who couldn't hold a clubhouse together.
There are similarities in Chicago.
Hendry went on a $300 million spree before the 2007 season and the Cubs won two straight division titles under manager Lou Piniella before being swept in the first round both seasons.
The past two seasons have bottomed out -- Piniella abruptly retired in August 2010 -- and the Cubs have been stuck with big contracts like the ones for Carlos Zambrano (five years, $91.5 million) and Alfonso Soriano (eight years, $136 million).
Zambrano is likely gone, even with a year left on his contract. Known increasingly for his outbursts, he gave up five homers to Atlanta in August and cleared out his locker, winding up with a 30-day suspension and never pitching another game before the end of the season.
Epstein has a potential ace in Matt Garza, who went 10-10 this season and was especially effective against the Red Sox while pitching for Tampa Bay. Young Andrew Cashner won a spot in the rotation but missed most of last season with an arm problem and veterans Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells are expected to return.
The Cubs have a struggling closer in Carlos Marmol, who after signing a three-year, $20 million contract in spring training, blew 10 saves in 44 chances.
First baseman Carlos Pena, a free agent who hit 28 homers with 80 RBIs and a .225 average, would like to come back. Aramis Ramirez, who hit .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs, said he plans to explore the free agent market, though there is a mutual $16 million option on the table. Soriano, who has three years remaining on his deal, batted .244 but did hit 26 homers with 88 RBIs.
Chicago does have plenty of promise up the middle with 21-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro, who had 207 hits in his first full major league season, and second baseman Darwin Barney.
Still, the Cubs finished the year a dismal 71-91 and once Hendry was gone, talked turned to someone -- anyone -- who might be able to bring the team back to the postseason and erase the endless talk of the purported Billy Goat curse of 1945 and the Steve Bartman foul ball debacle in Game 6 of the NLCS in 2003.
A native of Brookline, Mass., who grew up down the street from Fenway Park, Epstein left the team once before, in 2005, fleeing Fenway Park in a gorilla suit on Halloween after a tiff over his contract extension went public. He resigned and stayed away from the team for several months before returning to his old job.
Associated Press contributed to this report.