McAdam: Epstein's time as GM is winding down

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McAdam: Epstein's time as GM is winding down

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Theo Epstein's name has surfaced in connection with the Chicago Cubs, who are in search of a general manager, and, perhaps, a club president.

As Red Sox principal owner John Henry noted in an e-mail Wednesday night: "This kind of speculation happens from time to time to successful GMs and managers. The Cubs have one of the best presidents in baseball. I think this shows how highly regarded Theo is by the media and baseball in general.

ESPN.com Wednesday speculated that Epstein might be the perfect candidate to take over the Cubs, whose championship drought is longer than the one Epstein and the Red Sox ended in 2004.

Epstein would bring immediate credibility to a franchise which hasn't won a pennant in more than 60 years, or a World Series in more than a century.

Unanswered, of course, is whether Epstein himself would have an interest in the Cubs.

For now, the question might be moot. Epstein's current deal, signed after a winter-long walkout following the 2005 season, expires after the 2012 season.

It's difficult to imagine Red Sox ownership allowing Epstein to leave with a year remaining, even if baseball protocol generally calls for teams to allow personnel to leave if it involves a promotion -- in this case, from executive vice-president and general manager to club president.

It's no secret that Epstein harbors a desire for new challenges.

After next season, he will have been general manager of the Red Sox for a full decade, from 2003 through 2012. In that time, the Red Sox have won two pennants and two World Series, with at least a decent chance to improve on that this October.

There's drudgery to the job, and after a while, a sameness: endless paperwork, conversations with agents, arbitration cases and other day-to-day demands.

In the last 10 years, Eptsein has turned the Red Sox into one of the game's model franchises. The minor league development system has consistently churned out key players (including Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard) and armed with one of the game's biggest budgets, Epstein has overseen a team which has made the post-season six of his eight seasons.

The Sox were at the forefront of the game's analytic revolution, utilizing new metrics to evaluate player performance, while building one of the biggest scouting staffs in either league.

Still, surely Epstein thirsts for something new, something else.

A glass ceiling of sorts is in place at Yawkey Way, where Larry Lucchino, with whom Epstein has famously feuded, safely ensconced as the team president. As long as Lucchino remains with the Red Sox, Epstein can't move up the organizational ladder.

Henry, who brokered Epstein's return as well as the accompanying peace between Epstein and Lucchino five years ago, doesn't want to lose either. Under Lucchino, the Red Sox have become not only one of the game's most successful franchises on the field, but also, one of the most profitable off it.

It's said that Lucchino would like to replace Bud Selig as commissioner when Selig's term expires after the 2012 season, but it's difficult to imagine Lucchino, who has made his share of enemies, winning approval. For that matter, it's difficult to imagine a number of small market owners approving an executive from one of the game's superpowers as their leader.

That leaves Epstein at a crossroad.

In one sense, the notion of Epstein as team president seems odd. A club president must be the very face of a franchise, and in recent years, Epstein has receded from the spotlight. He's seldom visible at Fenway during games, unlike other general managers who are frequently glimpsed on the field before games or in press box dining rooms.

Some close to Epstein believe that his next job might be as the GM of a small-market team, that the challenge of rebuilding an organization from the ground up, with limited financial resources, appeals most to his competitive nature.

That argument is fine in theory. In application, it would be quite a leap to go from a payroll of 165 million to one with a payroll half that size.

It's possible -- though not exactly likely -- that, with a capable Ben Cherington as the GM-in-waiting, ownership could step aside, thank him for a job well done and allow Epstein to take the Cubs' presidency.

Or, in a year's time with his contract expired, Epstein could solicit other opportunities. Perhaps a dual job of presidentGM, like the one Dave Dombrowski has in Detroit, would appeal to him most, enabling him to stay involved in the day-to-day operation of a franchise.

But what's clear is this: Epstein's time as general manager of the Red Sox is winding down, mission accomplished. It seems only a matter of time before something else, somewhere else, pulls him away.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Dombrowski knows ‘winning the winter’ isn’t the ultimate goal

Dombrowski knows ‘winning the winter’ isn’t the ultimate goal

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md -- In the span on less than 12 hours earlier this week, the Red Sox injected some impact players onto their roster, moves that cost them a large chunk of their farm system but made them the prohibitive favorites in the American League.
    
By adding All-Star starter Chris Sale, power set-up man Tyler Thornburg and first baseman Mitch Moreland (though the Sox have not confirmed the latter yet), the team was remade and became the talk of the Winter Meetings.
     
But Dave Dombrowski knows that "winning the winter'' can be a hollow achievement. It's what happens when the games start that will truly matter.
     
"We feel good,'' said Dombrowski as he got ready to depart. "We feel like we have a better ballclub. We feel like we've helped ourselves. Our guys have done a good job here all week long. So, we feel good about it.
     
"In the winter time, winning doesn't really mean anything. We've had that situation before. It really comes down to how well you play. That's why when people ask me to made predictions, I never make them. I think we have a club that can compete. I like our ballclub. But you really have to go about it on a day-in, day-out basis and take care of your business and I think our club will do that.''
     
The Red Sox, of course, won the A.L. East, but were summarily dismissed in the Division Series by the Cleveland Indians, who swept them in three straight.
     
The Sox were the best offensive club in the majors, but the retirement of David Ortiz takes a huge weapon out of their lineup. It's doubtful they'll score as many runs as they did a year ago.
     
Correspondingly, the Sox vastly improved their rotation with Sale, giving them three front-line starters and, in theory, a chance to go further into the postseason in 2017.
     
So deep are the Sox, in fact, that they now have seven established starters, a surplus that has them positioned to move one arm.
    
It may take some time for the market to develop, as clubs explore what's available from other teams and in free agency.
     
"I don't know what that will be,'' Dombrowski said. "We'll just kind of wait and see what takes place. I think a lot is dependent on other things that need to shake out. So our depth in starting pitching is somewhat new to people. They need time to analyze that. I had a couple clubs approach me about that [inside the Rule 5 draft] this morning. Again, we're not jumping. We'll just wait and see what happens.''
     
Dombrowski could choose to move either Drew Pomeranz or Clay Buchholz, though it would seem dumping Buchholz's $13.5 million contract would be his preference.
     
That would enable Dombrowski to get closer to the $195 million luxury tax threshold, which he has said is a preference not a mandate.
     
"I have a preference [in choosing which starter to move],’’ he said with a smile. "I won't share that with you, but I have a preference.''

 

Red Sox re-acquire INF Rutledge in Rule 5 draft

Red Sox re-acquire INF Rutledge in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- On Wednesday afternoon, Dave Dombrowski was asked what else he might be searching for to complete his roster.
     
Dombrowski, noting that Travis Shaw had been dealt away in the trade that brought the Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg, said the Red Sox could use another utility infielder to compete with left-handed-hitting Marco Hernandez.
     
On Thursday morning, Dombrowski found a familiar body in the unlikeliest of places.
     
The Sox selected Josh Rutledge from the Colorado Rockies in the Rule 5 draft. Rutledge, who was once obtained in exchange for outfielder Shane Victorino, spent parts of two seasons with the Red Sox, posting a slash line of .276/.338/.358 with a homer and 13 RBI in 67 games.
     
He missed most of last season with a knee injury and was outrighted by the Sox last month, becoming a free agent. He signed a minor league deal with the Rockies, but was unprotected by the Rockies and made available in Thursday's draft.
     
"We always liked him,'' said Dombrowski. "He thought his opportunity to play at the big league level was better [in Colorado]. But it was a situation for us, we looked at our club and we thought we might need a right-handed [hitting] utility infielder. We looked over the list and we like what he can do for our ballclub. So he was on obvious choice for us.''
     
Rutledge will compete against Marco Hernandez to become another bench player to team with Brock Holt on the Red Sox  roster.
     
Deven Marrero is also a righthand-hitting infielder, but his strength is defense and he's yet to prove he can hit major league pitching.
     
"I'd rather have someone [competing] who can swing the bat a little bit more,'' said Dombrowski. "I think [Rutledge] lines up to be on our club. We'll see what happens in spring training, but we know him, we like him. There looks like there's a path for him.''
     
Drafting Rutledge cost the Red Sox just $50,000 and he must  remain on the team's 25-man roster all season or, be offered back to the Rockies and placed on waivers.
     
The Sox also lost two players in the Rule 5 major league draft. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim chose right-handed pitcher Justin Haley, while the Baltimore Orioles chose outfielder Aneury Tavarez.