Sox, Epstein reportedly reach a deal

Sox, Epstein reportedly reach a deal

BOSTON -- It appears the Red Sox have taken care of a major piece of offseason business, reportedly reaching a new contract agreement with general manager Theo Epstein.

The Boston Globe reported on Monday that the two sides have agreed to a three-year pact that will keep Epstein running the Red Sox's baseball operations department through the 2008 season.

If a deal is indeed in place, it is not yet known if an announcement will be made before midnight, when Epstein's current contract expires.

Red Sox executive vice president/public affairs Charles Steinberg, who would be the lead man in orchestrating a press conference to announce the deal, said Monday morning that he hadn't heard anything yet and the club had not -- as of 9:45 a.m. ET -- begun the process of arranging an official announcement.

The Boston Herald reported in Monday's editions that Epstein would sleep on the latest offer Sunday night and was still weighing whether to accept it.

Under Epstein's watch, which started on Nov. 25, 2002, the Red Sox have gone to the postseason in three consecutive years. Most memorable were the accomplishments of 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

While Epstein inherited a talented core of players -- some who remain and others who have since moved on -- he has successfully added to that nucleus while at the same time overseeing a farm system that has had a dramatic turnaround the last couple of years.

The move Epstein might never top is the free agent signing of David Ortiz for just over $1 million after the big DH was released by the Twins following the 2002 season. All Ortiz has done since his arrival is emerge into one of the elite sluggers in the game, not to mention one of the most popular players in franchise history.

And in another master stroke, Epstein was able to reach a two-year extension with Ortiz (including an option for a third year) in May 2004, ensuring that the left-handed slugger will remain in Boston through at least the 2007 season.

There have been some other memorable moves, including the dramatic trade and subsequent signing of Curt Schilling over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2003, not to mention the bold deal that sent one-time icon Nomar Garciaparra out of Boston for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.

Other less-heralded moves have helped stabilize the team, including the one that brought third baseman Bill Mueller to Boston in 2003, though the switch hitter is now eligible for free agency. Ageless Mike Timlin, one of Epstein's first free agent signings, has been the rock of the bullpen the last three seasons and will officially sign a new deal this week that will keep him with the Sox in 2006.

As with any GM, there have been moves that didn't work out so well. Side-winder Byung-Hyun Kim, for one, never got comfortable in his time in Boston. Ditto for fellow right-hander Ramiro Mendoza. Shortstop Edgar Renteria was signed last winter for four years at $40 million and struggled in his first year with the Red Sox.

By and large, Epstein's moves have worked out, making him popular among the team's rabid fan base. The fact that he grew up in Brookline, Mass. -- not much more than a Manny Ramirez homer from Fenway -- has done nothing to hurt that popularity.

When the Red Sox put Epstein into his current position at age 28, he became the youngest general manager in baseball history, an honor that has since been taken by Jon Daniels with the Texas Rangers. Epstein has hit the ground running during his time on the job to say the least, making his youth a non-issue.

Now that he is, at least according to one report, back in the fold, Epstein has some key winter decisions ahead of him.

Johnny Damon, the team's center fielder and leadoff hitter the last four years, has filed for free agency. Veteran left-hander David Wells -- a 15-game winner in 2005 -- has already told the team he'd prefer to be traded to a West Coast team for what will likely be the final season of his career.

Superstar slugger Ramirez, according to a report, has yet again asked to be traded out of Boston. As a 10-5 man (10 years in the league, five with existing team), Ramirez must approve any potential trade, which would make it a highly complex endeavor to say the least.

Epstein also figures to spend plenty of time revamping the bullpen, which played a big role in the 2005 team not clinching a playoff berth until the final game of the regular season.

But the main thing is that it appears Epstein will be back, giving him a chance to prolong the franchise's record streak of postseason appearances that started in his first season.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.