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Cubs will make run at Theo Epstein for GM


BostRed Sox general manager Theo Epstein’s 2012 contract optimust be exercised by Oct. 8. | Elise Amendola~AP

Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein’s 2012 contract option must be exercised by Oct. 8. | Elise Amendola~AP

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FOUND MONEY

The Cubs’ next general manager will be working with payroll flexibility this winter that hasn’t been available to the Cubs’ front office since Tribune Co.’s famous $300 million curb-appeal
spending spree five years ago, as the
following contract obligations expire:

Pos. Player 2011 salary

3B Aramis Ramirez $14.6 million

RF Kosuke Fukudome $12.5 million*

P Carlos Silva $11.5 million

1B Carlos Pena $10 million**

P John Grabow $4.8 million

P Kerry Wood $1.5 million

P Rodrigo Lopez $1 million

OF Reed Johnson $900,000

P Doug Davis $900,000

P Ramon Ortiz $900,000

Total $58.6 million

*-Indians assumed $1 million of $13.5 million salary when Fukudome traded to Cleveland in July.

**-Pena’s one-year contract included a $2 million bonus paid last December that technically charged to the 2010 payroll and includes $5 million due in January to allow it to be applied against next year’s payroll.

Note: Wood and Johnson are strong possibilities to return next year; Ramirez has said he’ll exercise his right to become a free agent if the team picks up his $16 million contract option unless he’s offered a multi-year extension.

MONEYBALL: 2012 CUBS

The Cubs have $69.6 million
committed in 2012 payroll to seven players, assuming Ryan Dempster exercises his player option and the team exercises its option on Jeff Samardzija. Six more on the potential 25-man roster are eligible for arbitration.

UNDER CONTRACT

’12 salary (signed thru)

LF Alfonso Soriano $18 million (2014)

P Carlos Zambrano $18 million (2012)

P Ryan Dempster $14 million (2012)

P Carlos Marmol $7 million (2013)

CF Marlon Byrd $6.5 million (2012)

P Sean Marshall $3.1 million (2012)

P Jeff Samardzija $3 million (2012)

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE

2011 salary

P Matt Garza $5.95 million

C Geovany Soto $3 million

IF Jeff Baker $1.175 million

C Koyie Hill $850,000

P Randy Wells $475,000

IF Blake DeWitt $460,000

Updated: November 11, 2011 5:51PM



SAN DIEGO — A large group of Cubs players stayed in the visitors’ clubhouse at Petco Park on Wednesday night long after losing their final game, cheering and screaming as they watched the clubhouse TVs, while their bus idled at the stadium’s loading dock.

A huge roar erupted when Baltimore’s Robert Andino hit a walk-off single to beat Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, and another erupted three minutes later when Evan Longoria homered for Tampa Bay to beat the Yankees and knock Boston out of the playoff race.

A day later in Chicago, the question became the same one uttered by a player amid the din that night: ‘‘You think [Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein] would leave to come here?’’

If the answer is yes — and one report Thursday suggested he has told friends he would ‘‘embrace the challenge’’ — the next sound could be the cheering coming from the Cubs’ boardroom.

And the hiring process for the next Cubs general manager could gain speed quickly.

As recently as Wednesday afternoon, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said he was in no rush to make the hire — more than 10 weeks after making his decision to fire Jim Hendry — because of the magnitude of the decision.

But that was before the Red Sox suddenly had no October baseball on their schedule.

The field of potential star candidates already had narrowed by then, with Athletics GM Billy Beane long out of the Cubs’ picture — something Beane confirmed Thursday when he responded to the Cubs speculation by saying he will remain in Oakland next year.

Not that it mattered. If there is a holy grail of GM candidates with successful track records for the Ricketts ownership, it appears to be Epstein. Ricketts’ admiration for Epstein is no secret.

With Epstein potentially available for an interview — not to mention his future with Boston questioned in the aftermath of the biggest September collapse in baseball history — the Cubs are expected to make a run at him.

Multiple reports in recent weeks suggested Epstein won’t leave his hometown team, especially in the wake of consecutive failures to make the playoffs. And there’s no guarantee Red Sox ownership would grant permission to talk to him. But the subject of his and manager Terry Francona’s 2012 contract options were conspicuously sidestepped during a media conference Thursday.

‘‘We’re going to all get together with ownership and discuss everything,’’ said Epstein, whose option must be exercised by Oct. 8. ‘‘The process we’re going to undertake will continue to identify all the issues that need addressing and take a hard look at ourselves, seeing whether we’re the people to address them.’’

Those in the Cubs’ clubhouse expect a winter of significant changes, whether Epstein is the guy making the moves or whether the GM hire even gets done before November.

Ricketts suggested the team could position itself to compete, if not contend, as soon as next year and allayed some fans’ concerns that a full-blown rebuilding process is coming.

‘‘I think one thing you’ve seen in baseball over the last two years is that turnarounds can happen pretty quickly,’’ he said, ‘‘so I don’t think it’s meaningful to describe a season as a rebuilding year or a reloading year or anything like that.’’

The Cubs need to acquire at least two quality starting pitchers to have a realistic chance for a quick turnaround. And that’ll take an aggressive offseason plan to get ahead of the other buyers in a winter free-agent and trade market that figures to be scarce in frontline starting pitching.

The Cubs haven’t even scheduled their annual organizational meetings — typically held between the World Series and November GM meetings — because they don’t have anybody to run them and don’t know yet what they’ll have to talk about.

Business on the winter agenda for the front office involves whether to try to keep Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez before they become free agents, shipping out Carlos Zambrano and as much of the final year of his contract as possible and deciding whether they want to try to do the same with the final three years of Alfonso Soriano’s deal.

‘‘I’m still here, part of the Chicago Cubs,’’ Soriano said. ‘‘We’ll see what happens in the offseason. I hope they find a good GM, and we can be contenders next year. If not, I don’t want to be on another losing team. So I hope that they want to build and can build it the right way.’’



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