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Decision is expected today as Epstein mulls offer

An official announcement is not likely to be forthcoming -- Major League Baseball frowns upon teams conducting other business publicly during the World Series -- but Theo Epstein was expected to decide today whether to accept a new deal to remain as general manager of the Red Sox.

A source close to negotiations had said Tuesday night that the matter would be resolved ''either way in the next 24 to 48 hours."

Yesterday, one of Epstein's peers, Brian Cashman, who was sorely tempted to leave the Yankees after eight years working under George Steinbrenner, told an executive with another major league club that he planned to stay with the Yankees. Cashman accepted a three-year deal for just under $6 million, which would place him in the highest echelon of general managers' salaries.

Dave Dombrowski of the Detroit Tigers is paid a reported $2 million a year, but Dombrowski is also president of the club. Atlanta GM John Schuerholz is paid $1.6 million a year, while Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics is reported to have a salary in the $1 million-plus range, but has an ownership stake in the club that raises the value of the contract considerably.

On Tuesday, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino met with Epstein and presented him a three-year offer at $1.2 million a year, according to a major league executive with knowledge of the negotiations. Epstein, who was paid $350,000 in the last year of a three-year deal that expires Monday, is believed to be seeking $1.5 million annually. That would seem to leave room for a compromise relatively easy to achieve, but there are other issues that could get in the way of a settlement.

Those issues revolve around management style and other philosophical differences that have left some members on the baseball operations side privately expressing anger at the way they are regarded by the Sox' hierarchy, i.e. Lucchino, who has always taken an active role in baseball decision-making with the Red Sox, as well as the other teams he previously served as CEO, the San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles. Lucchino has publicly denied ''chain of command" issues but otherwise has vowed to keep negotiations private.

Sources familiar with Epstein's thinking said he does not question the propriety of reporting to the CEO but chafes at times at the degree to which Lucchino involves himself in baseball decisions, and at a perceived lack of respect toward the baseball side.

Lucchino has known Epstein since he began as a summer intern with the Orioles in 1992, and has mentored Epstein through an apprenticeship that continued in San Diego when Lucchino moved to the Padres, and then to Boston, where Lucchino first hired Epstein as assistant GM shortly after the new ownership group took control in 2002, and promoted him to GM a year later. The protracted negotiations have left Lucchino hurt by a perceived absence of loyalty, according to sources close to the Sox CEO.

The Red Sox' situation is a topic of conversation among baseball executives attending the World Series, with most saying they expected the situation to be resolved with Epstein remaining with the Sox. Epstein's options should he elect to leave the Red Sox? There are three GM jobs currently open, in Arizona, Tampa Bay, and Philadelphia. The San Diego job could open if Kevin Towers leaves the Padres for Arizona, where he interviewed and was considered the leading candidate.

But for reasons that are unclear but could revolve around money, the Diamondbacks appear to have cooled on Towers, CEO Jeff Moorad telling Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes and Tigers assistant Al Avila that they remain viable candidates. Tampa Bay has a 29-year-old director of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, so the belief there is they are looking for a caretaker GM to train him, while the favorite in Philadelphia appears to be former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker.

Another job could open when the Washington Nationals are sold, the sale expected to be announced in the near future.

Towers, whom Lucchino was interested in hiring away from the Padres three years ago but was denied permission by the club to talk with him, was mentioned by one major league executive as a possible successor to Epstein should he leave, with Epstein going to San Diego. But for the moment, that appeared to be just idle industry shop talk.

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