Did the Red Sox Receive Damaged Goods in the Theo Epstein Trade?

By Sam Feeley

The Boston Red Sox are exploring their options to fix a to fix a sticky situation regarding compensation for former general manager and current Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein, including appealing to MLB commissioner Bud Selig.

The issue derives from an injury to Chris Carpenter, the pitching prospect whom the Red Sox received as compensation for Epstein, that had somehow escaped the Red Sox and Cubs’ respective medical staffs. Carpenter had passed the Red Sox physical, but on Thursday underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his throwing elbow.

When Epstein, who still had one year left on his contract with the Red Sox, left for the Cubs in October, the Red Sox reportedly wanted starting pitcher Matt Garza or shortstop Starlin Castro in exchange, not just a prospect and cash. The Cubs were unwilling to part with neither ace nor all-star, and thus the Sox had to settle for Carpenter.

The question, at least from the Red Sox perspective, comes down to this: Did the Cubs act in good faith when sending Carpenter to Boston? One can argue that honesty or deceit doesn’t enter into the equation. The Red Sox scouts knew what they were getting, and the Red Sox medical staff should have seen this coming. And if they did, they should have said Carpenter failed the physical. Bone spurs don’t just show up out of the blue; they develop over time and can be found well before something more serious develops, like a need for surgery. Carpenter also spent time on disabled list last year with a forearm strain, a prelude of some sorts to more serious elbow problems like bone spurs.

Commissioner Selig took a spectator’s approach to these negotiations over the winter, but now may be forced to act swiftly. The idea is that the Red Sox would like someone in addition to or to replace Carpenter, but if you see it the way Bruce Levine of ESPN.com sees it, “compensation of a player for a front-office person never has made sense” and “Selig should have the Cubs write a small check and be done with it forever.”

Whatever the solution, the Red Sox are now left to wipe some serious egg off of their collective face. This was an issue that could have been prevented as early as Fail-tember, but thanks to failures by scouts, doctors, and new general manager Ben Cherington, it has stretched into a six-month ordeal that, in some eyes, should never have been an ordeal in the first place.

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