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.

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.