BOSTON -- Before the Boston Red Sox can advance too deeply in their managerial search, there is another order of business that the club must address with some urgency in the coming days.
Namely, what they plan to do in the event another club comes calling for general manager Theo Epstein, especially since, according to one major league source close to Epstein, it's "50-50" the GM would leave for the right situation.
"I wouldn't be shocked either way,'' the source said. "I know he's not dying in the Red Sox job, and if he went to the Cubs and they won, he'd be a Hall of Fame general manager.''
The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. The Red Sox had not won one since 1918 until Epstein became GM before the 2003 season, then won two World Series titles in the span of four seasons, in 2004 and 2007. The Cubs have a new owner, Tom Ricketts, who fired incumbent GM Jim Hendry during the season. Red Sox ownership, as recently as Friday night at the announcement of manager Terry Francona's departure, would not clarify their intentions regarding the Sox GM.
CEO Larry Lucchino noted that Epstein was still under contract. Team chairman Tom Werner said that they regarded Epstein as one of the best general managers in baseball, but went no further. Back in late August, when Cubs speculation first surfaced, majority owner John W. Henry said it only demonstrated how highly regarded Epstein was in the game, but he too stopped there.
The last time Henry publicly addressed Epstein's long-term future with the team was in spring training. When asked about extending Epstein's contract, Henry said, "Things are going extremely well from our vantage point and from his vantage point. I can't even tell you, I really don't know, when his contract is up. We haven't talked contracts. I think the important thing is that we're all extremely happy working together.''
Epstein has told confidants that he feels great loyalty toward the ball club and Henry, believes in honoring a contract that has a year remaining, and feels an obligation to make sure the house is in order before he contemplates making a move. The team's September collapse, a gut punch to the entire organization and one that led to Francona's exit, has complicated his decision even further.