A new era for Epstein, Cashman

Updated: November 14, 2011, 9:37 AM ET
By Buster Olney

RANDOLPH CENTER, Vt. -- There was a short break in Saturday's baseball roundtable here at Vermont Technical College, a half-hour when Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, Neal Huntington and Boston Red Sox scout Galen Carr retreated to a room for a quick dinner. It was at that time that Epstein mentioned that he would be glad to finally talk trades with Cashman.

For almost a decade, Epstein and Cashman couldn't really deal with each other, given their Hatfield-McCoy relationship as general managers of the Red Sox and New York Yankees, respectively. There was one time, Epstein recalled, when he suggested a swap of Shea Hillenbrand for a young first baseman named Nick Johnson -- a deal that would have been a total steal for the Red Sox, at the time -- and Cashman never took that seriously. But now that Epstein has taken over the Chicago Cubs, as president of baseball operations, he and Cashman can talk earnestly. And on paper, they might have a future match on someone like Matt Garza.

But as they took questions on the dais, in Epstein's first appearance in New England since taking the job in Chicago, the general managers were asked a lot about past trades, and it was evident that regret resides as deeply as the pride over successes. Huntington talked about the Jason Bay deal with the Red Sox and how it hasn't worked out -- and on the other hand, he likes how his trade for Jose Tabata and others with the Yankees has turned out better. Cashman recalled how, after the 1998 season and a strong season from Scott Brosius, he decided to trade a young third baseman named Mike Lowell for three hard-throwing pitchers, and how rival executives raved about the great arms he got in return -- and of course, the deal turned out badly for the Yankees.

Epstein's regret over failed deals, he indicated, was built on those times when he and his staff got away from the proper evaluation process. Epstein recounted some events early in the 2006 season: Josh Bard was struggling to catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, and so the Red Sox rushed to reacquire catcher Doug Mirabelli, getting him on a plane so that he could catch a game on a Friday night at Fenway Park. There wasn't really a proper process, as Epstein remembered, and in the end, Mirabelli hit .193 in 59 games for the Red Sox -- and the young pitcher that Boston gave up for him, Cla Meredith, contributed some strong relief for the San Diego Padres.