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Levine: With Extension Close, Theo Epstein Will Soon Be Baseball's Highest-Paid Executive

By Bruce Levine--

ANAHEIM, Calif. (CBS) -- In October 2011, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts made new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein the highest-paid executive in baseball. Now, Ricketts is about repeat history with Epstein in the final season of a five-year, $18.5-million deal.

Ricketts has been contemplating getting Epstein signed to an extension, and it could happen in the next few weeks.

"Nothing to report tonight, we have had a couple of conversations on it," Ricketts said Monday night. "I imagine we will get it wrapped up at some point in the near future. No deadline."

The key difference in getting a new agreement done now is the fact that the market for top baseball officials has increased nearly three-fold in the four-plus years since Epstein came aboard with the Cubs. Dodgers president of baseball operation Andrew Friedman makes between $7 million and $8 million with bonus incentives in his contract. Epstein's new deal will surpass that amount.

"I don't feel a lot of super time pressure," Ricketts said when asked for a timeline.

"We've talked about it. We'll get to a conclusion here pretty soon."

Short of winning a World Series already, Epstein has done everything his owner has wanted in four years on the job. He and his top executives Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod have completely revamped the organization, bringing in top young talent as well as veterans in what projects as sustainable run at playoff baseball every season. McLeod  got a new deal in fall 2014 when other teams were trying to hire him. Hoyer's due a sizable raise once Epstein inks a new deal.

"We talked a little bit toward the end of spring training," Epstein said Monday of discussions with Ricketts. "I thought they were good, productive conversations. Neither one of us has had a ton of time to focus on it. It was hard to make it a focus with so much else going on. No cause for concern. We had good talks. This is something we are going to continue to talk about. We both feel like its going to get done some point soon."

You should expect Epstein to get a five- or six-year extension that surpasses the annual value of Friedman's five-year, $35-million incentive-laden deal with the Dodgers. Epstein has already proved his resolve in the past. In a tough poker game after the 2005 season, he took on former Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and walked away from the Boston job on principle. That was after Epstein and his team had ended the curse of the Bambino and brought the Red Sox a World Series title in 2004. Epstein returned a few months later when differences with team brass were worked out.

There are no such problems in Chicago, where Epstein and Ricketts appear to have a close relationship that's based on friendship and trust.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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