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If Theo Epstein deal keeps dragging on, Bud Selig could get involved

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstetalks cell phone visitors dugout during batting practice 2005 prior game against Seattle Mariners Safeco

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein talks on a cell phone in the visitors dugout during batting practice in 2005 prior to a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle. | Ted S. Warren~AP

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Updated: November 22, 2011 8:44AM

Amid breathless tweeting and over-reaching blog posts by some Chicago media, the Cubs finished Thursday a lot like they started it: waiting for a compensation deal that has been inevitable for more than a week to get done in time to announce Theo Epstein’s hiring as the team’s baseball boss Friday.

Sources left open the possibility that an announcement could be made Friday — significant because it’s an off day between World Series games — but the likelihood decreased as the business day ended without resolution and with Epstein still in Boston.

Major League Baseball officials already have consented to an off-day announcement during the Series, pending formal notification; the other off day is Tuesday.

Information leaked in Chicago early in the day of a deal being nearly done turned out to be premature and appeared to rile Boston brass, which already was taking a hardball approach to negotiations — made more difficult by the Cubs’ ‘‘backward’’ approach of reaching agreement with Epstein before starting compensation talks.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry’s response to the Boston Globe regarding the leak: ‘‘Not close.’’

Sources said late Thursday that progress has been made and a deal remains imminent, with Epstein getting a five-year, $18.5 million contract to become the Cubs’ president of baseball operations in an expanded front office that also will include Jed Hoyer — currently the Padres’ general manager — as his GM.

Reports suggest a similar length of contract for Hoyer, who is to be replaced in San Diego by current assistant Josh Byrnes — San Diego CEO Jeff Moorad’s GM in Arizona when Moorad ran the Diamondbacks. Hoyer is under contract through 2013 with a team option for ’14.

San Diego assistant GM Jason McLeod also is expected to leave the Padres for Epstein’s staff. Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod teamed in the Boston front office during the run that included 2004 and 2007 championships.

While the Cubs are expected to provide minor-league compensation for Hoyer and McLeod, that process doesn’t figure to be nearly as difficult or protracted as the Red Sox negotiations, if only because of the strong relationship between Moorad and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts — and Moorad’s desire to promote Byrnes, who was still the Arizona GM and unavailable when Moorad hired Hoyer.

Despite Moorad’s respect for his current GM, many saw the handwriting on the wall in San Diego when Moorad added Byrnes and his former Arizona manager, A.J. Hinch, to the front office over the last 13 months.

Three weeks ago, Ricketts stayed an extra night in San Diego, where the Cubs finished the season, and had dinner with Moorad, presumably at least laying the groundwork for later discussions.

Meanwhile, the Cubs’ late-week optimism may have sprung from success in getting the Red Sox to back off demands for top pitching prospect Trey McNutt, who sources said Thursday night was off the table.

If the Cubs-Red Sox talks get any more contentious and drag much longer, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said during a SiriusXM radio interview that he might actually get involved to mediate.

‘‘It is a possibility,’’ he said. ‘‘No question it is a possibility.’’

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