A more rational view on Theo compensation

Nick Cafardo hasn't won any favorites among Chicago fans with his opinions on the whole Theo Epstein saga.  From the time the Cubs were courting him to the compensation issue, Cafardo hasn't exactly had an objective opinion.

Gordon Edes is a different story.  He he hasn't written as often about Epstein, but when he has it has been a more balanced, objective viewpoint.

Today on ESPN Boston, Edes wrote the following...

At this stage, the source says, the Sox are hopeful of acquiring one quality minor-league prospect from the Cubs. They’re resigned to not getting a major leaguer from the Cubs, and acknowledge it probably won’t be one of the Cubs’ premium prospects, like a Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters. But the source says the Sox are insisting on acquiring a prospect with a legitimate chance of making it to the big leagues as a contributor.

The Red Sox expect a decision in the coming week, the source said.

This type of player is more in line with the prospects the White Sox received for Ozzie Guillen and what the Twins received for Andy McPhail.

A "chance to make it to the big leagues" entails a lower level minor leaguer, probably a Class A player, maybe AA -- something that was speculated by Peter Gammons a couple of weeks ago.

Dae Un Rhee would be at the top of the scale when it comes to pitchers at the Class A level.  Ben Wells is also a guy who fits that description.  It would make sense if it were a pitcher at that skill level/ability -- but I think (or hope?) it might be a little high.  Other pitchers who fit the description of  "a prospect with a legitimate chance of making it to the big leagues as a contributor" are Eric Jokisch, Marcus Hatley, Austin Kirk, and Aaron Kurcz.  As far as hitters go, it could be someone like Logan Watkins.

My thought on the ultimate decision is that it will be one that will put the onus on the team with the executive.  They're the ones who will have to determine their GMs value. In other words, if you think this GM is too valuable to risk losing, then the responsibility is on the team to deny permission.  There shouldn't be a situation where a team allows an executive to talk to another team and then cries foul when they come to an agreement.

If the compensation is low, then a team will make an honest evaluation of the GMs worth.  If they know that the best they can gain is a Class A pitcher, then they'll evaluate the GM on his own merit instead of trying to use the system to acquire a top player or prospect.

In Boston's case, how much value is one year of Theo Epstein?  Is his value that much higher in the last year of his contract than it would be to promote Ben Cherington a year early?  There are some  benefits to Boston if they choose the latter: they wouldn't have a lame duck GM, they'll save money, they can promote other valued execs who might have otherwise gotten better opportunities elsewhere, and they can start building their new front office a year early with an up and coming GM.  We're not talking about what Theo Epstein is worth in a vacuum.  The amount of the compensation should be equal to the cost of letting Theo Epstein go a year early minus the benefit of promoting Ben Cherington a year early.  It shouldn't be worth all that much, certainly not a top player or prospect.  As long as Boston's prepared and willing to make that relatively minor change they should give permission with some reasonable expectation of compensation.  If they think replacing Theo with Cherington a year early will be such a huge setback that it would require a top player to compensate them, then they should simply deny permission.  That is how the system is meant to work.  It isn't meant to be used as a means to acquire top talent from other ballclubs.  My guess is that Bud Selig would agree with that statement and in the end, his decision will reflect this more rational point of view.

Filed under: compensation

Tags: Theo Epstein


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    The compensation will be something along the lines of the MacPhail compensation.

  • I've come to that conclusion too.

  • Some of same names are ones that could be going to SanDiego to complete their compensation.

  • In reply to Cliffy46405:

    I think so. I'm under the impression that the Cubs and SD have already discussed parameters, if not specific names.

  • John, do all deals have to be approved? With the Macphail and Guillen deals, teams agreed to the terms, not Selig, correct? If the league didn't have to approve these deals then a precedent hasn't been set. Does that make sense?

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Don't know if it technically qualifies as precedent in a legal sense, but it's certainly a reference point. I do think whatever Bud decides here will become the standard and I'm pretty sure he's well aware of that. If he makes it a top prospect, then Theo will be the last exec to leave and get a promotion with another team. We know he's not going to let that happen.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Precedent isn't quite the right word. Whenever you're trying to estimate the value of something, it is important to look at the price for comparable items. So it is probably more accurate to refer to the MacPhail deal as a comparable transaction. The fact that it was decided by the market participants themselves makes it a more reliable indicator of value than it would be if the league had decided it. In short, although the sample size is small, the MacPhail deal is probably a pretty good indicator of value.

    It is also important to remember that MLB should be valuing what Boston lost and not what Chicago gained. Boston lost only one year of a lame duck GM. They already had a transition plan in place and they benefit from not paying Epstein's salary of completion bonus. In other words, they didn't really lose much at all. While Boston has the right to expect something for letting Epstein go, those expectations should be tethered to reality.

  • I agree, it will be along the lines of the MacPhail compensation, finally a rational view from Boston.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Edes tends to be a bit more objective, I think.

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    The Cubs and Red Sox agreed to let Selig decide what the compensation should be. His decision will be final.

  • It will and I believe it will also set a precedent for future compensation cases.

  • Alright, alright. They can have our soon to be newest top MLB ready minor leaguer-- Blake DeWitt. Lol!

  • In reply to Bill:

    They twisted your arm for that one, huh?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ha! Yeah they did. Actually DeWitt would be an overpay IMO. But the funny part is I would rather lose him, since we pretty much know his ceiling and how he apparently doesn't fit on this team, rather than a prospect with "some" potential. Like everyone else, I would just like this compensation to be resolved already.

  • In reply to Bill:

    It'd be much easier if it were DeWitt, but Boston could have picked him up for nothing and passed. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be any fringe major leaguer. It'll probably be a Class A guy. Just hoping it's not someone like Rhee or Wells.

  • The Sox want a major leaguer? Give em Soriano

  • In reply to gposner:

    Amen...or Soto!

  • In reply to copinblue:

    I'd have no qualms about giving them either Marlon Byrd or Jeff Baker..Seriously.. Lets just get this crap behind us.. I'm loking forward to getting out to Mesa this morning and seeing what we got

  • My prediction: It involves Austin Kirk. Boston could try to spin it by noting that he threw a no hitter in the minors, maybe throw in another prospect, call it a day.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I think that seems about right. Fangraphs really likes Kirk, they ranked him in the top 10.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I really like him too, but that's about fair

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I think so too. He has MLB potential but not a super high ceiling. Has reasonable expectation to make it as a reliever or bottom of the rotation guy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • John,

    You may use the word "precedent" with comfort. The compensation issue is a quasi legal affair, similar to an arbitration hearing. Bud will use the "cases" that have been resolved before him as pprecedent

  • In reply to socalcub:

    Thanks socalcub!

  • For an unknown reason, when posting from my phone, I can't edit text after a certain number of words. Excuse the typos. Will use my laptop going forward...

  • One thought that keeps crossing my mind lately about the whole compensation thing, is the number of times that I have heard Bud announce how "good it is for baseball that the Cubs are a competitive team." Secretly, he has got to be thrilled, that TR hired Theo and crew to build the Cubs into a consistent winner.

    I don't think Bud will do anything, in terms of compensation, to jeopardize the plan Theo is developing. He can't just give Boston their pick of prospects and "cripple" the develop of another organization.

    I also can't help but think that the harmonious way that the Cubs and Padres have structured resolution to their compensation issue, will also work against the folks in Boston. You can't sit back and think that Boston is being anything but greedy and vindictive. Bud is going to send a message and it won't be one that the Sox will be happy to hear.

    I think that he will make a point, in saying that if Boston wanted to keep Theo that badly, they should have never given permission for him to talk to TR. Any way that you think about the compensation issue, you have to think that Bud firmly lays the blame at the feet of the Fenway brain trust.

  • Any legs to the rumor that compensation is Chris Carpenter?

  • To me it has nothing to do with theos value but what the clubs had agreed upon. The cubs agreed that there would be "significant" compensation. When theo signed all of a sudden they backed off thier agreement with the red sox. The commish must determine what was agreed upon and what the proper compensation would be. The Red Sox screwed up in trusting the cubs,they should not have let theo sign before agreeing to the compensation.

  • In reply to adamsman:

    The word "significant" can mean anything. If that's the basis for the Red Sox argument, then it's too subjective. Significant to the Cubs could mean a top 30 prospect or a guy like Chris Rusin at AAA who's on the brink of helping the team.

    The Red Sox, from the start, were trying to use the comp system to get a top player or prospect for Theo. That is not how the system was intended to be used. I'm pretty sure Selig was aware of Boston's intention to hold Theo for ransom and it's why he let him go the Cubs before comp was decided. The common thought is that he does not want to raise the value of front office members and that he will give something more in line with what's been given in the past.

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