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Boston’s Epstein Compensation: No Big Deal

So far as Long National Nightmares go, the Theo Epstein Compensation Saga has been neither the longest nor most nightmare-y. However, in terms of handwringing and electronic ink spilt relative to notable developments, it’s been pretty formidable.

And, in fact, despite reports of a resolution late this morning, the matter will remain curiously unresolved even after today. According to the Red Sox official Twitter feed (and the entire rest of the internet), Boston has acquired 26-year-old right-hander Chris Carpenter and a player to be named later from the Cubs in exchange for a different PTBNL.

In terms of the actual value of the deal for either club, Dave Cameron provided the conceptual scaffolding for that conversation back in early October, noting generally that, whatever marginal value Epstein provided over, say, a “freely available” general manager such as White Sox Assistant GM Rick Hahn, it likely wasn’t worth an actual player.

In this case, that actual player is the aforementioned Carpenter, a pitcher with command issues who averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball in a brief major-league stint with the Cubs last season — a player whom our Marc Hulet rated as the Cubs’ 11th-best prospect late in November.

If the story of the Red Sox’ compensation for Epstein has taken on a high profile this offseason, it likely has had less to do with the specific facts of the matter and more with the markets involved. The Red Sox and Cubs very clearly have two of the more interested (and, ahem, vocal) fanbases in the sport. As other stories have come and gone, this one has remained. If the clubs involved were, say, the Royals and Pirates, however, it’s unlikely that it would have been as prevalent in all of our various twitter and RSS feeds.

For the clubs, ultimately, the incentive to resolve the issue promptly never really existed — except for the purposes of public relations, maybe. Both teams are either at (in the case of Boston) or near (in the case of Chicago) capacity on their 40-man rosters. As the Sox were never likely to receive a big haul for Epstein, it makes sense that they’d wait for compensation until such a time as they had a better sense of their 2012 roster, injuries, etc. The pair of PTBNLs even in the current arrangement supports that notion, nor are those last two players likely to be big pieces, either. In the end, apart from the team’s involved, the issue of Epstein’s compensation was no big deal.