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Theo Epstein deal a go, but it might miss ‘deadline’

Chicago Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts talks about firing general manager Jim Hendry before baseball game between Cubs St. Louis Cardinals

Chicago Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts talks about the firing of general manager Jim Hendry before a baseball game between the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, Aug. 19, 2011 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: November 19, 2011 8:53AM

At this rate, Theo Epstein may need another gorilla suit.

Cubs sources with knowledge of the talks between the Cubs and Boston Red Sox don’t expect their haggling over player compensation to keep Epstein from becoming the Cubs’ next general manager.

But as the protracted talks dragged into the final open date before Wednesday’s World Series opener, sources were not as optimistic Monday night that an agreement could be reached before Tuesday’s unofficial ‘‘deadline.’’

And with baseball’s blackout rule regarding such major announcements during the World Series, that could push Epstein’s trip to the podium into the final week of October — assuming the sides settle on the compensation issue by then.

These talks, after all, involve a Cubs chairman, Tom Ricketts, whose family endured a three-year negotiating process during a national economic crisis to buy the team.

And those who know Ricketts say he’s playing to his strength as an experienced and dogged negotiator as he heads the Cubs’ talks with Red Sox ownership.

The sides are said to be hung up on Boston’s demand for top pitching prospect Trey McNutt, with the issue of other personnel the outgoing Red Sox GM might want to bring to Chicago considered less of a sticking point.

The Red Sox, who are being asked to free Epstein from the final year of his contract, were expected to command a package of prospects similar to, or of slightly greater value than, the two minor-leaguers the White Sox got from the Marlins for Ozzie Guillen.

Epstein, who famously left Fenway Park in a gorilla suit upon resigning briefly in 2005 on Halloween after a rift with upper management, was still in Boston by several accounts late Monday.

Despite the potential for the process to drag into the World Series blackout period, sources expressed no concern that the five-year, $18.5 million deal between the Cubs and Epstein was in jeopardy.

The sense of inevitability cuts a swath from Wrigley to Fenway, where sources say Ben Cherington already has been internally appointed GM and other members of the Red Sox’ front office are in the process of being shuffled and/or promoted according to that and other falling dominoes anticipated with Epstein’s departure.

Reports from Boston and sources in Chicago suggest motivation on both sides for a quick resolution.

If an agreement is reached during the World Series, one possible scenario could involve the Cubs seeking an exception to the blackout rule to allow an announcement during a scheduled day off, as they were allowed to do two years ago for the ownership change. Friday is the first scheduled day off of the Series.

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