By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was again asked Wednesday about extending president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s contract that is set to expire at the end of the 2016 season, and he again reiterated that it will be taken care of in proper fashion as soon as the sides have some free time.
“Nothing to report,” Ricketts said. “We had dinner last night. We are on the same page. We just have to sit down and hammer it out.”
Epstein became the highest-paid team president in baseball when he signed a five-year $18.5-million deal with the Cubs in October 2011. Since that time, Andrew Friedman’s deal with the Dodgers runs for more than $7 million annually across five years and has become a reference point for the highest-paid executives across the sport.
Ricketts wants to compensate Epstein properly but appears cautious to set a new high-pay standard.
“I don’t know how other heads of baseball and owners get along,” Ricketts said. “I can ‘t imagine a better relationship than what Theo and I have. It is not a very high-stress conversation. It’s a matter of, ‘Let’s think it through and get it done soon.'”
Epstein has delivered what he promised to Ricketts more than four years ago. He and his front office have worked under budget and set up the organization with some of the most talented and productive young players in the game. Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer also pulled the trigger on hiring the talented Joe Maddon as manager in November 2014.
Maddon then led the Cubs to 97 wins in 2015 and a trip to the NLCS. Entering 2016, the Cubs are the betting favorites to win the World Series.
“Any time you are the highest-paid anything in baseball, it’s a short-term position,” Ricketts said. “Obviously, there have been a few guys that have come in the last few years and are making more money than Theo does. I think he is the best at what he does in the game. I think from a compensation standpoint, it should be reflected. We have spent a lot of time together. We just have not spent a lot of time focusing on the contract.”
You can be assured that the compensation for Epstein will be creative and make him baseball’s top-paid executive for at least a short period of time.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.