So What Is Theo Epstein Really Worth ... To The Cubs?

CHICAGO, IL: Reed Johnson of the Chicago Cubs watches as his son Tyce slides into home plate after the Chicago Cubs Milwaukee Brewers game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Brewers 7-1. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

If the Cubs want to pry Theo Epstein away from the Red Sox, it'll cost them a great deal of salary and compensation to the Sox. How much is Epstein really worth?

You know, it would be a lot easier to follow Major League Baseball's front-office soap operas without all these pesky games getting in the way.

And vice versa.

Obviously, the juiciest news has been coming out of Boston, from whence there's some actual evidence that a) the Chicago Cubs are interested in talking to Theo Epstein, and b) Theo Epstein is not completely disinterested in talking to the Chicago Cubs.

According to Nick Cafardo, whose source is a Major League Baseball source, the Cubs have filed the paperwork with Major League Baseball preparatory to preparing to ask for permission to dial Theo Epstein's phone number. Or send him a text. The source apparently wasn't sure about that part of it.

Channel 5's Mike Lynch reported that the focus of the ownership group discussions yesterday centered around whether the Red Sox should ask the Cubs for compensation merely to ask permission to speak to Epstein, who is under contract until 2012.

According to our MLB source, there was nothing wrong with the Red Sox asking, but that to his knowledge this type of request had never been made.

Asking for permission to speak to a candidate is normally tied in with compensation the team granting the interview would receive if the party decided to sign on with the new team.

I think the Red Sox should ask for the Harry Caray statue first; if Theo actually does leave for Chicago, the Sox should make him take Carl Crawford with him. Because, you know, the Cubs don't already have a left fielder with a long-term contract who's making way more than enough money.

Ah, but this wasn't supposed to turn into some sort of joke. For that, we've got Marc Normandin.

Marc Normandin: The Price To Pay For Theo Epstein

When I read the above, my first thought was to write an article, the title of which would be "How much is a general manager really worth?"

Fortunately, shortly before I began to write such an article, I stumbled across an actual article, already written, titled What is Theo Epstein Worth?

Get the hell out of my head, Dave Cameron. With all your logical thoughts and whatnot.

Granted, my question was about the compensation the Cubs would have to send to the Red Sox, while Cameron's piece concerns the salary it would take to lure Epstein away from the Cubs. And it would be a considerable salary.

According to Cameron (referencing Buster Olney), the highest-paid general managers earn around $2.5 million per season (though this doesn't account for Billy Beane's ownership stake in the Athletics). I'm guessing Epstein would jump to the Cubs unless they made him the highest-paid GM in the majors, by a fair piece. So let's say it takes ... oh, $4 million to lure Epstein away from the Red Sox. In a world in which Raul Ibanez earns $11.5 million and Yuniesky Betancourt $4 million, isn't $4 million for a top general manager almost felony theft?

Much to my surprise, Dave Cameron says no, maybe not. His crux:

To a large degree, the price of a thing is set by how hard it is to get a similar thing somewhere else. While water may be the single most important resource on earth, in that we all need it to survive, it’s also remarkably cheap for most people in developed countries because we have access to an awful lot of it. In order to justify spending a lot of money luring Epstein to Boston – and compensating the Red Sox for letting him out of his contract – the bar wouldn’t just be initiating cost savings for the Cubs and improving the organizational efficiency of their baseball operations department, but it would be doing so at a level significantly beyond what the Cubs could have gotten by hiring any one of a number of whip-smart folks across the game.

He might be right. But why take a chance? You're the Chicago Cubs. It's time to win a damned World Series. Let's say you save $3 million and hire somebody's never heard of, a whip-smart assistant general manager like David Forst or Rick Hahn or one of the other dozen guys out there who will be GMs some day. The thing about hiring one of those guys is that while it's a noble experiment, it's still just an experiment, and three years later you might say to yourself, "Whoops. I guess we got the wrong one."

There are a lot of teams that should try that experiment. I'm just not sure the Cubs are one of those teams. Also, it takes more than one whip-smart folk. Ideally, you've got a bunch of them in your organization. And how many baseball executives are in a better position than Theo Epstein to identify and hire those whip-smart folks?

I get what Cameron's saying. He might be right. If I'm Tom Ricketts, though, and I've got a $200 million budget, I'm pretty sure I could justify spending 2% of it on a general manager who's won two of the last eight World Series.

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