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Now it’s in Theo Epstein’s hands to decide if he’ll be next Cubs GM

The Cubs Red Sox jointly announced thTheo Epstewill joCubs. The teams will hold news conferences Tuesday.  |  AP

The Cubs and Red Sox jointly announced that Theo Epstein will join the Cubs. The teams will hold news conferences on Tuesday. | AP

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Updated: January 23, 2012 4:02AM

The Cubs have made their pitch, and now it’s up to Theo Epstein — and possibly Boston Red Sox owner John Henry — to determine whether he’ll be the Cubs’ next general manager.

Sources dispute the done-deal nature of a Boston Herald report Tuesday night that said an announcement could be made before Friday, but indications are an offer has been made within acceptable parameters to Epstein. The expectation within the Cubs’ organization is that he’s headed to Chicago.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it suddenly popped up that they had a new GM,’’ one Cubs source said. “I would be surprised if it wasn’t Theo.’’

In recent days, the Cubs sent memos to their top baseball personnel to keep the second week of November open for tentative organizational meetings, a sign to some in the organization that the team could be close to naming a GM. That’s also the week before baseball’s GM meetings are held.

“Usually you don’t do that unless you have a GM,’’ said one rival executive, who already was in the midst of his organization’s meetings Tuesday.

A source with knowledge of the process cautioned against assuming a particularly quick timeline.

Personal factors could come into play regarding Epstein accepting the offer to leave his hometown Red Sox. Player compensation from the Cubs to allow Epstein out of the ­final year of his contract is another factor, one with perhaps the biggest potential for lengthening the process.

A wild-card factor could be Henry’s affection and respect for Epstein. That could lead to an 11th-hour push to keep Epstein and extend his contract, even in the face of the more adversarial forces of team president Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner.

But as many point out, Henry has had the power from the beginning to deny the Cubs permission to talk to Epstein.

A key for the Cubs to land Epstein is a title that represents a higher rank, presumably of comparable standing to ‘‘president,’’ in part to assure he’s not making a lateral move, as baseball protocol dictates.

In practice, sources said, it’s to assure that Epstein would have the authority to keep meddlesome Cubs president Crane Kenney out of baseball business.

Multiple high-level executives from other organizations said they viewed Kenney as an interfering, credit-seeking suit with little baseball acumen and an impediment to landing a top general manager.

Despite chairman Tom Ricketts’ vow that Kenney operates independent of baseball operations — and that Kenney wouldn’t be involved in selecting the new GM — a Cubs source said Kenney remains involved in the process. Ricketts recently lauded Kenney’s efforts in that process to members of the organization, the source said.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have continued on multiple fronts even though they have made Epstein their top target.

Sources said the Cubs have contacted other potential candidates while wooing Epstein. Among those the Cubs are believed to have reached out to are Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman, White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn and former Los Angeles Dodgers GM Dan Evans.

An unofficial timeline for the resolution of the Epstein courtship could be the start of the World ­Series on Oct. 19. The commissioner’s office frowns on such major team announcements being made during the Series.

Whether negotiations over compensation prolong the process, major-league execs scoff at the idea that the Cubs could reasonably be asked to give up top major-leaguers such as Starlin Castro or top prospects such as Brett Jackson.

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