McAdam: Who has leverage - Cubs or Sox?

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McAdam: Who has leverage - Cubs or Sox?

When Theo Epstein reached an agreement to become head of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs earlier this week, it seemed that the final step -- determining compensation for the Red Sox -- would be relatively simple.

Not so fast.

Multiple reports have the teams at a standstill in negotiations, with reports of the talks turning "contentious,'' and no solution in sight.

Both sides, apparently, believe they have the upper hand when it comes to leverage.

Here's the Cubs' perspective:

They've already received permission from the Red Sox to speak with Epstein about the position. Moreover, Epstein, with a year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox, had interest enough to speak with owner Tom Ricketts, then accepted the position.

At the Red Sox' insistence, the Cubs have already absorbed a 3.5 million "conclusion bonus'' that the Sox were set to owe Epstein at the end of his deal.

By allowing Epstein to interview in the first place, the Sox effectively sent a signal to the Cubs that they were willing to let Epstein go, even as principal owner John Henry continues to lament Epstein's near-departure.

Not without reason, the Cubs believe they have the leverage. After being given permission to talk to Epstein and agreeing to absorb the cost of the conclusion bonus, the Cubs know that things are too far along to stop now.

If the Cubs dig in their heels and refuse to meet the Red Sox' demands on player compensation, Epstein isn't about to return as GM of the Sox. Such a scenario would mean the Red Sox would be paying (a presumably unhappy) Epstein some 7.5 million dollars to either serve as a lame-duck GM, or, perhaps, not work at all and take the year off, while collecting the single biggest payday a baseball general manager has ever earned.

The Cubs surely believe they can wait out Red Sox ownership in this stare down. It's already been established that Epstein doesn't want to remain in Boston and it's just as likely that CEOPresident Larry Lucchino doesn't wish Epstein to remain.

Currently, the Cubs have a manager in place -- though one who is unlikely to remain on the job if the deal for Epstein goes through -- and new head of baseball oprerations who's agreed to a deal.

The Red Sox, conversely, have no manager, a GM who has agreed to a contract elsewhere and a managerial search that, for now, must remain on hold.

If you're the Cubs, you can afford to wait.

Here's the Red Sox perspective:

When Ricketts began his search for the executive to turn around his franchise, he reportedly had a list which included Brian Cashman, Billy Beane, Andrew Friedman, and, of course, Epstein, with the latter his clear first choice.

After two face-to-face meetings with Ricketts, and with the permission of his current employer, Epstein agreed to take the job.

For the past week, Epstein's pending arrival in Wrigleyville had captivated Cubs fans who view him as a baseball savior, capable of delivering the championship that has eluded the franchise for better than a century.

Now that the clubs are at a standstill on the matter of compensation, what's Ricketts going to do: tell his long-suffering fan base that Epstein isn't coming after all because the team refused to part with a minor leaguer or two? Hardly.

For many Cubs fans, starved for a title, there's little they wouldn't sacrifice in order to improve their chances of winning. Surely, they're not worried about losing a Double A or Triple A prospect if the return is a World Series.

Precedent is on the Red Sox' side, too. Just last month, Ozzie Guillen left the Chicago White Sox (also with a year remaining on his deal) to become manager of the Florida Marlins.

In exchange, the Marlins surrendered -- without much of a fight -- two of their Top 10 prospects.

If Guillen, who managed the White Sox to a championship in 2005 but qualified for the postseason just one other season in his eight years in the dugout, can command two top prospects, why wouldn't Epstein -- whose tracked record includes two World Series titles and two other trips to the ALCS -- be worth at least that much in terms of compensation?

Surely, the man charged with overseeing an entire Baseball Operations department -- trades, free agent signings, the amateur draft, international free agents, hiring scouts, managers and a coaching staff -- is of more importance (and thus, more valuable) than a manager.

The Red Sox also have a ready-made replacement for Epstein in assistant GM Ben Cherington. They don't have to embark on a lengthy, time-consuming search for Epstein's replacement.

If you're the Red Sox, you can afford to wait.

And so, with both teams emboldened by their own perceived leverage, we all wait.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.