- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The buzz around the Chicago Cubs' Christmas party on Wednesday evening centered around missing president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, whose whereabouts were known by only a few people inside the organization.
Epstein had made his way to Miami to negotiate with pitcher Anibal Sanchez and his agent Gene Mato.
Although initial reports had Sanchez accepting a 5-year, $75 million contract with the Cubs, the agent and the player were able to up the ante with Detroit, agreeing to a 5-year, $80 million deal to return to the Tigers.
According to sources, Epstein and team chairman Tom Ricketts made an impressive presentation to Sanchez, promising that as a Cub he would be the ace of the staff and treated like royalty, compared to being the fourth starter on the American League champion Tigers. Sanchez, who was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox as a free agent, was impressed and ready to take the plunge, according to a source.
The Tigers' original offer of four years, $48 million was pushed to a final offer of 5 years, $80 million, the source said.
At that point, Sanchez turned down the Cubs' offer of $77.5 million, and the 28-year-old pitcher returned to Detroit.
Give the Cubs credit for trying to begin their quest to win at an early point of this rebuilding process. Losing 101 games has a big impact when you are vying for the elite players in free agency. The Cubs will now set their sights on a quality short term starting solution like RHP Edwin Jackson or LHP Francisco Liraino.
Cubs fans can admire the effort if not the result in this case . Epstein and team ownership want to build a dynasty in Chicago. They proved on Friday they are not afraid to swing and miss in their pursuit of long-term excellence.
2dJohn Jackson, Special to ESPN.com