Theo Epstein's contract expires tonight at midnight, but the 31-year-old general manager won't be looking for a new place to work for at least three more seasons. Epstein and the Red Sox have agreed to an extension of that length, keeping the Brookline native in place as the team's GM through the 2008 season, according to multiple major league sources.
No news conference was scheduled as of last night, but the deal is expected to be announced either today or tomorrow at Fenway Park.
It is believed that Epstein, who made $350,000 last season, ranking him near the bottom of baseball's GM pay scale, will have the chance to make close to what he was seeking ($1.5 million per year). That would position him among baseball's best-compensated general managers.
When the most recent round of negotiations began, Epstein received an initial offer of about $850,000 per year and a second offer of $1.2 million per year, both of which he rejected.
Atlanta GM John Schuerholz, whose teams have won 14 consecutive division titles, makes $1.6 million per year. Brian Cashman recently accepted a three-year extension for close to $6 million to remain general manager of the Yankees. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski earns a reported $2 million per year, but he also serves as club president. Oakland GM Billy Beane makes a reported $1 million-plus, though his compensation package includes an ownership stake in the club. Beane was offered $12.5 million over five seasons by the Sox before they hired Epstein, and that offer bolstered Epstein's resolve during negotiations.
With Epstein's deal done, and assistant GM Josh Byrnes now in Arizona as the Diamondbacks GM, the Sox are likely to undergo some reorganization within the baseball operations department. Jed Hoyer, the 31-year-old assistant to the general manager, is expected to assume Byrnes's role, though it wasn't clear last night when Hoyer's promotion would be announced.
Byrnes hasn't yet asked permission of the Sox to interview anyone in the organization, but he could be interested in bringing 29-year-old Peter Woodfork, a Swampscott native, to Arizona as assistant GM. Woodfork, the Sox' director of baseball operations and assistant director of player development, recently interviewed with the Texas Rangers to become GM Jon Daniels's assistant. Daniels chose to hire the only other candidate he interviewed, 33-year-old Thad Levine, formerly the Rockies' senior director of baseball operations.
Woodfork, if he stays, might be in line for a promotion, as could Ben Cherington, Boston's director of player development.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels appear to be the likeliest partner if/when the Sox explore dealing unhappy slugger Manny Ramirez, who again has asked out of Boston. Ramirez representative Geno Mato told Sox owner John W. Henry Friday that Ramirez wants to be dealt and will not report to spring training if he remains a member of the Red Sox.
The Sox' foremost need is pitching, and any conversation with the Angels is expected to begin with the Sox asking about 22-year-old Ervin Santana, the righthander who went 12-8 with a 4.65 ERA as a rookie. Los Angeles is looking to unload salary, specifically 40-year-old center fielder Steve Finley ($7 million in 2006) and 31-year-old Darin Erstad ($8.5 million).
The Sox aren't likely to touch Finley, but they might be willing to absorb Erstad's salary, given that he could play first base or center field.
Ramirez, during an August visit to play the Angels, confided in a veteran teammate how much he liked Anaheim. Ramirez remarked that no one bothered him during a visit to a local mall. The teammate explained the lack of fan pestering by telling Ramirez that if he played in Southern California he might be making $20 million a year, but his next-door neighbor would be making $25 million.