RED SOX ownership will work quietly to try to sign rock-star general manager Theo Epstein to a contract extension, and sources say that Epstein, whose three-year deal is coming to an end, is highly likely to continue as the most successful G.M. in his hometown team's history. Meanwhile, the archrival Yankees, now run by George Steinbrenner's two wildly different sons—the strait-laced, discreet Hal and the impetuous, impatient Hank—are confident they will lock up Brian Cashman, the only current G.M. with more World Series rings than Epstein.
Despite the small likelihood that Epstein or Cashman will move on, the expiring contracts of baseball's two highest-profile G.M.'s nevertheless add intrigue to the most fascinating front-office market in years. Here's a closer look at eight G.M. situations that will be under the microscope.
Epstein, Red Sox.
Boston owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner love the 34-year-old Epstein, and why not? He not only brought two titles to the championship-starved franchise but also has built the player-development machine that he promised when he ascended to the job in 2002, one that has produced such young cornerstones as outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and infielders Dustin Pedroia and Jed Lowrie. Since his well-publicized departure three years ago and subsequent return, Epstein has also gained considerably more autonomy and decision-making power.
Earlier this season Hank Steinbrenner was so upset with the Yankees' play that he didn't always return Cashman's phone calls. But he now appears to agree with his brother that Cashman's emphasis on player development—together with what is certain to be an aggressive pursuit of free agents—is the right path.
Pat Gillick, Phillies.
One of the game's best-ever G.M.'s, Gillick, 71, has said that he will retire after this season. Insiders believe that longtime assistant Ruben Amaro Jr. will get the nod, though Mike Arbuckle, the team's draft guru, is another strong in-house candidate. There has been talk of a scenario, not unrealistic, in which Gillick would return to Seattle (where he was the G.M. from 2000 to '03) in a high-ranking capacity. Less realistic is the scenario advanced by some in which Gillick could then hire away Cashman to be his G.M.
Jim Bowden, Nationals.
One of the game's alltime survivors, Bowden has apparently maintained the support of the Lerner family, which owns the Nats, despite a series of disasters that include having the worst record in baseball; the failure to sign the club's No. 1 draft choice, Missouri righthander Aaron Crow; and an FBI investigation into whether Bowden skimmed money from a prospect's signing bonus. While the Nats say that Bowden was asked only about his former employees by investigators, league sources insist that Bowden too is being probed. Should Bowden be removed, his assistant G.M., draft whiz Mike Rizzo, is the logical successor.
Brian Sabean, Giants.
After a good run, poor drafts and the advanced age of the existing roster have taken their toll. Sources say Sabean's fate will be decided by incoming managing partner Bill Neukom, who will replace longtime Sabean supporter Peter Magowan.
Ned Colletti, Dodgers.
Colletti is constantly in the crosshairs of owner Frank McCourt, who has a hair-trigger management style and is said to harp on the club's high-profile moves that haven't paid off—Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones in particular, who are guaranteed $83 million of McCourt's money. McCourt's mood has brightened slightly with the acquisition of Manny Ramirez (below), and sources say that Colletti is very likely to keep his job.
J.P. Ricciardi, Blue Jays.
The firing of Ricciardi favorite John Gibbons as manager and the rehiring of Cito Gaston was seen as a poor omen for the seventh-year G.M. But while Ricciardi's Jays have been up and down, he's put together a superb run-prevention team built around an excellent rotation and terrific defense.
Lee Pelekoudas, Mariners.
The interim G.M. was put in an impossible position when he took over at midseason. It's been a grim '08 for the Mariners, who didn't help themselves by failing to move their high-priced vets at the trading deadline. Names such as Cashman and Padres G.M. Kevin Towers have been floated, but neither appears likely to move on, leaving the position wide open.
ONLY AT SI.COM Get Jon Heyman's Daily Scoop.
BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS (EPSTEIN)
DEVELOPING STORY Under Epstein (inset), the Sox drafted (from left) Pedroia, Ellsbury and Lowrie.
KIRBY LEE/US PRESSWIRE (PEDROIA)
[See caption above]
GREG M. COOPER/US PRESSWIRE (ELLSBURY)
[See caption above]
PETER G. AIKEN/CSM (LOWRIE)
[See caption above]
MATT BROWN/ICON SMI (RAMIREZ)