As we wait for white smoke out of Fenway Park, one of the swirling Cubs issues is this:
Would you trade Starlin Castro for Theo Epstein?
That’s the DEFCON 1 scenario as Tom Ricketts stalks Boston’s general manager.
We don’t know if the Cubs received approval to pursue the man who appears to be their top choice. We don’t know if Epstein even wants to leave his hometown heroes for the most futile franchise in sports history.
If the answers are yes and yes, then it’ll cost the Cubs because the man who brought two World Series to Boston has a year left on his contract. But cost them how much? Cost them what? Their best young player in decades?
Players win, but players account for one position at a time. A general manager affects all 25 roster spots, the 40-man roster, the draft, and blah, blah blah.
Fans pay to watch star players. No, wait, forget it, these are Cubs fans. They pay to watch Doug Davis. But even Cubs fans aren’t drunk enough or dumb enough to watch someone generally manage.
What exactly is a suit worth compared to a uniform? Ricketts would be playing poker with the Red Sox at this point. He would be heads-up against people with more experience and more baseball savvy. Daddy’s money can’t help at this point.
So, who would be advising Ricketts? Tim Wilken? Oneri Fleita? With all due respect, wouldn’t your scouting director and farm director have a vested interest in the success of their most talented youngster?
Wouldn’t they need to see that kid in Cubs colors to validate their jobs?
Wouldn’t they be loathe to give away such valuable currency, especially in exchange for someone who will become their boss?
Pick a question, and the answer smacks of a conflict of interest.
Truth is, the question needs to be recast to reflect the reality of the situation:
Would Epstein trade Castro for himself?
Because that would be his first big decision on the Cubs roster. Epstein knows baseball better than Ricketts, right? I mean, that’s why Ricketts is going after him.
Presuming Ricketts realizes his limitations, he makes Epstein answer the Castro question. He makes Epstein negotiate that one. He makes Epstein decide whether he thinks the Cubs win a deal in which he trades his new team’s best young player for himself.
And you know what? Epstein would be ripe for a conflict-of-interest charge himself, or at least have his judgment questioned loudly. He might be loathing his spot in the Red Sox organization so much that he would trade anyone and everyone to escape.
How desperate is Epstein? How big is Epstein’s ego? Does any of that matter if his vision is a better gamble than Castro’s future?
This is when Ricketts could really use a baseball guy to trade for his baseball guy.