They were sitting near each other at last night’s Hot Stove Cool Music panel discussion at Fenway Park’s State Street Pavilion, but the general managers of the Red Sox and Cubs did not resolve the compensation issue that is now in the hands of the commissioner.
When asked if there was a resolution in sight, the Cubs’ Theo Epstein said, “Seems like it should be coming to an end sometime soon.’’
When asked again, Epstein said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk about it. No one has really talked much about it. Probably a better question for MLB.’’
Epstein took part in the discussion, which explored the difference between big-market and small-market teams, with Pirates GM Neal Huntington, Sox GM Ben Cherington, Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Sean Casey of the MLB Network, the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson, and moderator Peter Gammons.
“Nothing new,’’ added Cherington. “Would any of you like to resolve it? The commissioner has been involved. As we’ve gotten closer to spring training I think that there’ll be some direction given from the commissioner’s office.’’
Is the gap large?
“It’s hard to quantify,’’ Cherington said. “It’s just a disagreement. There was an expectation when Theo left that the Red Sox would receive significant compensation for allowing the Cubs to hire him and we haven’t been able to agree on what ‘significant compensation’ means.’’
Cherington is preparing for two potential arbitration cases in David Ortiz and Alfredo Aceves, but both may get resolved before hearing dates in February.
Cherington said neither outcome would affect the team’s bottom line on making more moves this offseason, though there is a big difference between Ortiz’s $16.5 million asking price and the Sox’ $12.65 million figure.
The Sox are still interested in Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson, but aren’t close to a deal. Oswalt had an exploratory meeting with the Rangers yesterday.
“We’re going to keep our eyes open and continue to talk to teams or free agents as things present themselves,’’ Cherington said. “I don’t know if we’ll do anything in the short term. We think we have enough to get the team ready for the season. But if something comes to us either now or during spring training, we’ll certainly consider it.’’
Cherington is still not ruling out Carl Crawford returning by Opening Day, but he believes newly acquired Cody Ross will play every day until Crawford returns.
“We think he’s a good fit for the park, a good fit on the team and the clubhouse, can play all three outfield positions,’’ Cherington said. “So he’s a guy we had targeted all along and then certainly when Carl had the wrist procedure done. We believe he’s going to be back, if not on Opening Day, very early in the season. But Cody certainly gives us a little bit more protection in the outfield in the event that Carl misses the first part of the season.’’
As for a possible platoon at shortstop, Valentine said, “No. I don’t believe in platoons necessarily. With the guys that are here I’m looking forward to seeing how it will play out. If I had a preconceived notion about what would really happen, then why would we even go to spring training? If we get seven weeks together and we practice together and we play together, that’ll all work its way out.’’
As for Kevin Youkilis recently saying he didn’t like the “vibe’’ in the Sox clubhouse, Cherington said, “I think the tide is turning heading into spring training. I’m getting the sense that the players are motivated for it to turn. But I think until we get in the clubhouse, and that can happen in Fort Myers, we don’t know.
“The clubhouse culture, chemistry, I don’t know that you can predict them. It’s a group of human beings that are together in a room for a long time and trying to do something. Until they’re in that room and pulling in the same direction, we don’t know. I do know that they’re very motivated to create a better environment and have a better sort of esprit de corps. And I think motivated on an individual level and on a team basis, too, to move past 2011.’’Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.