Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has been the sizzling hot stove candidate for a GM opening with the Chicago Cubs, and the Cubs made the next step in pursuing him Tuesday night, asking the Red Sox for permission to talk with Epstein, according to the Boston Globe.
Meetings to discuss the Cubs' request took place Tuesday at Fenway Park, the Globe reports.
Epstein is still under contract with the Red Sox, which means the club can refuse the request, or allow it with the condition that they receive some sort of compensation in return.
Contacted by phone Tuesday night by ESPNBoston.com, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino refused comment.
A Red Sox official, asked about the likelihood of Epstein leaving, told ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes: "All I can tell you is (Epstein) is working with the same vigor and passion to make the Red Sox better. I realize that sounds like a company line, but it is the truth.''
Asked about the report, a Cubs spokesman declined to comment.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was asked by Fox Business Network on Monday if Epstein would be coming to Chicago.
"I don't know; there's a lot of good candidates out there," he said. "We're going to talk to a handful of them and I'm sure we'll come up with the right fit for the team. Ultimately it will be the decision of myself and my family. Obviously we didn't get it done on the field this year. It was a disappointing season for everyone, but, we're going to get some new leadership."
Epstein, who has won two World Series with the Red Sox, has one year remaining on his contract and the team has not said that he will get an extension. In fact, a major league source told Edes that it's 50-50 that Epstein would leave for the right situation.
A source close to Epstein told ESPN MLB analyst Jim Bowden that Epstein was open to the possibility of taking over the Angels or Cubs if "president" were added to his GM title.
After bringing the first World Series to Boston since 1918, there is now no greater challenge in baseball than delivering a title for the Cubs, who haven't won it all since 1908.
Epstein is at the top of the Cubs' want list and has been since Ricketts fired Jim Hendry, major league sources told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine.
Ricketts would not say who his "handful" of candidates includes, but names have been bandied about since Hendry was fired in August, including: Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, Yankees GM Brian Cashman, A's GM Billy Beane, White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn, and Red Sox VP of player personnel Ben Cherington.
Whoever gets the job, he will face rebuilding in a market that doesn't want to start from scratch. Ricketts has said that the Cubs can turn around quickly, and a desperate fanbase will hope he's correct.
"Going to both this season and last season, we thought we had a team that would perform better than it turned out to perform," Ricketts said, according to FBN. "You can't go back in time, you look forward, we have a lot of good things to build on and we'll get there."
Ricketts also has made a commitment to player development, and he indicated that he won't just spend, spend, spend to bring the Cubs a title.
"I think that's out the window at this point," Ricketts said, according to FBN. "Traditionally, teams that have a little bit more financial resources may be more consistent at getting to the playoffs but once you're there anything can happen and there's a good mix this year."
Meanwhile, Red Sox majority owner John W. Henry, who has not spoken publicly about the Red Sox collapse or their parting with manager Terry Francona, came out of seclusion Tuesday night -- on Twitter. Henry, however, did not address whether the Cubs had asked permission to interview Epstein.
Instead, Henry limited his baseball-related tweets primarily to the search for a new manager.
"Another productive day this week at Fenway,'' Henry tweeted. "(Chairman) Tom (Werner), Larry and I were briefed by Theo and (vice president of player personnel) Ben (Cherington) on the managerial search. Due diligence this week.''
He added: "Calls and maybe interviews next week. Excited to once again bring in smart, creative, hands-on leadership. We have the right people looking."
Information from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes was used in this report.