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Epstein, Sox are closing in on new deal

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and president/CEO Larry Lucchino met multiple times yesterday, and by last night there was every indication an agreement will be reached that will keep Epstein as GM for the next three years. A formal announcement could come today.

Meanwhile, 35-year-old Josh Byrnes, the Sox' assistant general manager, was in Boston last night but was scheduled to travel to Arizona today to be introduced as the new GM of the Diamondbacks. Jed Hoyer, the Sox' 31-year-old assistant to the GM, is the leading candidate to replace Byrnes.

Epstein and the Sox were believed to be only $300,000 apart earlier in the week. On Tuesday, Lucchino offered Epstein $1.2 million per year for three years, upping the club's initial offer of $850,000 per season. Epstein, whose contract expires Monday, is believed to have made $350,000 this season and desires a bump to $1.5 million per year. That would position him among the league's most well-compensated general managers.

Epstein and Lucchino have refused public comment as negotiations have become more acrimonious, though they did issue a joint statement yesterday afternoon in response to a high volume of interview requests.

''We had a meeting over lunch today to continue our discussions and to conduct other business as well," Epstein and Lucchino said in the statement. ''We made progress, but we anticipate no further statement until there is something to announce.

''We are hopeful that these discussions will work out for the best. In the meantime, we continue business as usual."

Epstein, who turns 32 in December, stands to become one of the league's highest-paid GMs after being at the bottom of the league's GM pay scale in his first three seasons. He is believed to have made $300,000, $325,000, and $350,000 in his three seasons.

Brian Cashman, now eight years on the job in New York, this week 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. Epstein, if he receives what he's believed to be seeking, would come close to matching the salary of Atlanta GM John Schuerholz, who is making $1.6 million and whose teams have won 14 consecutive division titles.

Oakland GM Billy Beane makes a reported $1 million-plus, though his compensation is bolstered by an ownership stake in the club. Beane, of course, was offered $12.5 million over five seasons by the Sox before they hired Epstein, and that offer has strengthened Epstein's negotiating stance. Epstein, since being hired, has overseen a team that has won at least 95 games in three consecutive seasons and made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. Both are organizational firsts. And, of course, he became the youngest general manager to win a World Series.

Byrnes, meanwhile, has been viewed as a GM in waiting for some time and would have been a potential successor to Epstein, in the event that Epstein had left the organization with Byrnes still in place as his assistant. Byrnes previously worked in the Rockies' and Indians' organizations.

Hoyer, a history major at Wesleyan University, was hired as an intern the day the current Sox ownership assumed control of the team, and was quickly promoted. He fast became Epstein's valued confidant. When Epstein visited Curt Schilling for Thanksgiving 2003, in an attempt to convince Schilling to come to Boston, Hoyer accompanied Epstein to sell Schilling on the team, city, and ballpark.

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