BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said he expects both his premier free agents, David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon, to reach free agency. All Major League teams have until 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday to negotiate exclusively with their players before they hit the open market.
"I think that's unlikely," Cherington said Monday of a deal with either by the deadline. "I talked to representatives from both David and Pap in the last few days. I think we'll continue that dialogue, keep the door open, but I'd say it's unlikely that we would reach anything before Thursday."
Another deadline looms sooner for the Red Sox -- and for the Cubs -- on Tuesday. The teams need to reach an agreement on the compensation Boston will receive for Theo Epstein's departure for Chicago, and if they don't, Commissioner Bud Selig has said he will step in.
Cherington said Monday evening that, although he and Epstein, his predecessor in Boston who is now Cubs president, were still talking, the Commissioner's intervention could well happen.
"It's possible. We've always felt like that was a possibility," Cherington said. "As I think I mentioned in [my introductory] press conference, it's a difficult deal to work out. It's hard to quantify the value of Theo Epstein. I have an idea of it, and Theo doesn't think he's worth as much as I do. We haven't been able to bridge that gap yet. It's possible we could. Both sides are comfortable with that outcome if it works that way."
Cherington said that if Tuesday passes and no agreement is reached, a date would be set for both sides to argue their case and the Commissioner and his staff would make their decision based on that. In other words, if the matter does fall out of the Red Sox's and Cubs' hands, Tuesday doesn't bring an immediate decision.
Cherington said he and Epstein had "talked a little bit, but he's been pretty busy with other things, and so have we."
"We'll probably talk again and tomorrow," Cherington said.
Cherington didn't rule out the possibility that someone on his staff could still leave to join Epstein in Chicago -- no one has left yet -- but said there is an understanding that there would be no large-scale migration. The Red Sox don't want to block anyone from a promotion.
"We have an understanding on that side of things that if there's an opportunity for one person in Chicago that's clearly a better opportunity, that's good, and we don't want to stand in anyone's way," Cherington said. "There's an understanding that the Cubs aren't going to raid the Red Sox and the Red Sox aren't going to raid the Cubs. It should be a good relationship moving forward. That's what everyone wants."
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.