Various sources have reported that the negotiations for compensation from the Chicago Cubs for signing Theo Epstein as general manager before his Boston Red Sox contract has expired have become stalled and even "contentious".
Perhaps the most remarkable of those reports was this one from David Kaplan of CSN Chicago, which says Red Sox president Larry Lucchino is "playing hardball" with the Cubs and quotes an unnamed major league baseball executive, regarding Lucchino:
"Larry Lucchino is one of the most unreasonable people I have ever dealt with and because of his frayed relationship with Theo Epstein he is looking to make a point at the expense of Theo's happiness and his desire to go to Chicago. I didn't believe that ownership group for one second when they said that they wouldn't stand in Theo's way if he wanted out of Boston. They are furious that he wants out and they are trying to make a point. Theo helped bring them two World Series titles and they have no loyalty to him and his happiness. They messed with Terry Francona and that was just an incredibly pathetic move and now they are trying to make life very tough for Theo," he said.
So it would seem that Lucchino is holding up this deal just because he can.
Thus it would seem to me that Theo Epstein has an ace in the hole; he could simply announce that he's going to live up to the terms of his deal and go back to work at Fenway Park on Monday morning.
And when he does, his first call should be to Cubs interim general manager Randy Bush. He and Bush could work out a sequence of trades, one a day, as follows:
Monday: Dustin Pedroia for Blake DeWitt
Tuesday: Jacoby Ellsbury for Tyler Colvin
Wednesday: Adrian Gonzalez for Jeff Baker
Thursday: Jonathan Papelbon for Rodrigo Lopez
Friday: Daniel Bard for Jeff Samardzija
He'd take the weekend off. Week Two:
Monday: Josh Beckett for Casey Coleman
Tuesday: Carl Crawford for Alfonso Soriano
Wednesday: Jon Lester for Ramon Ortiz
Thursday: Alfredo Aceves for John Gaub
Friday: Ryan Lavarnway for Koyie Hill
This, of course, is just an exercise; it's been rumored that one of the reasons Epstein wants out of Boston is that all of his trades have to be approved by Lucchino. This would at least keep Lucchino busy for a while rejecting these "deals", and perhaps he'd tire of it and fire Theo. Or maybe Epstein could refuse to do anything at all to improve the clearly aging Red Sox for 2012.
Moral of the story: two can play hardball.