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No deal yet with Sox, Cubs

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / October 21, 2011

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ST. LOUIS - The bottom line is that neither side can believe the issue of compensation for Theo Epstein has taken this long.

“This could be done in the snap of a finger,’’ said one party associated with the talks.

And maybe it will.

A major league source familiar with the talks between the Red Sox and Cubs said yesterday, “Both sides just have dug in their heels. It shouldn’t have been this tough. This was a simple process, but it just seemed that both sides needed to come out of it with the feeling they won. And until that happens, there won’t be a deal.’’

If the feeling that everybody wins is going to be achieved, today would be a good time. It’s an off day in the World Series, when Major League Baseball could grant a waiver on the major-announcement blackout.

The next off day is Tuesday. Beyond that, the sides would have to wait until the conclusion of the World Series to make any announcement.

Commissioner Bud Selig told SiriusXM radio he may arbitrate the compensation matter.

“It is a possibility,’’ Selig said. “No question.’’

Selig was also concerned about the report of the Red Sox drinking in the clubhouse.

“I’m very concerned about our image. I do believe our players are role models. So when stories like that emerge you must understand I’m not very happy,’’ Selig said. “I’m going to wait until all this other stuff is done and it’ll be up to the general manager and the new manager to solve that immediately.’’

Meanwhile, Epstein again spent the day at his Boston office doing Red Sox business. Epstein, who has one year remaining on his contract but has reached agreement to join the Cubs - pending compensation to Boston - has been at his office most days since the process began, except when he went to Chicago to work out the new deal.

He is ready for a new challenge, but little did he realize there would be this challenge to meet first.

There have been many stories out there over the last 24 hours, and some of them collide. The Chicago side has been indicating that an agreement is close, the Red Sox side just the opposite. The Chicago side was indicating last night that a deal was pending medicals on agreed-upon prospects; the Red Sox said they knew nothing about that.

“It’s very leaky out there,’’ said a person familiar with the talks.

Epstein seems to have his ducks lined up for Chicago. There are reports that he has already hired Padres general manager Jed Hoyer to be his GM, and that Hoyer would bring assistant GM Jason McLeod with him.

McLeod was a terrific scouting director under Epstein in Boston before Hoyer took him to San Diego. McLeod would join the Cubs’ front office as assistant GM.

It doesn’t appear Epstein would be able to take any of his current staff with him, at least not initially. There has been discussion about trainer Mike Reinold, and that may still be negotiable. But in terms of more significant staff members, such as scouting director Mike Hazen or top talent evaluator Allard Baird, the answer appears to be no.

The Red Sox have been focusing on righty Trey McNutt, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, who threw in an Arizona Fall League game Wednesday. One scout’s report on him was: “Threw 93-95 and had a better breaking pitch than I’ve seen. He did have command issues.’’

The Red Sox have taken such a major public relations hit over the fallout from their September collapse that they can’t afford to get taken on this deal. They could always hold Epstein to the last year on his contract.

A source close to Epstein said he is prepared for whatever the outcome is. If the sides can’t agree on compensation, he would return to Boston’s front office.

From the Cubs’ perspective, it would be difficult to sell anyone other than Epstein as their savior after he has been built up so much.

The Red Sox would like to get on with naming Ben Cherington as their new GM, and Hazen will likely be elevated to assistant GM, with Baird also having a significant role.

The Padres, meanwhile, would slip vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes into the GM role when Hoyer leaves.

Would the Padres also entertain the possibility of allowing the Red Sox to speak to their manager, Bud Black? Black has done a nice job managing after years of being Mike Scioscia’s pitching coach with the Angels.

The Sox need their pitching straightened out, and John Lackey had his best years under Black.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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