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NL Central Notes: Cubs, Epstein agree to new contract; Cardinals win in controversy

Theo Epstein signs an extension, MLB replay rules fail, and the Pirates may be making a positional swap

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs and GM Theo Epstein agreed to a five-year contract extension, the team announced Wednesday.

The deal is expected to be worth around $50 million when accounting for bonuses and incentives. It's comparable to the contact the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Andrew Friedman.

Chairman Tom Ricketts said that he and Epstein met four times during the summer to discuss a possible extension. The deal was finalized Saturday but not announced until Wednesday due to the news of the tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

"It took a bit of a leap of faith in [ownership] coming here, and they have lived up to everything they said they would do," said Epstein, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Epstein is in the final year of a five-year, $18.5 million deal. "There's no place I'd rather be," he said.

Before finalizing a new deal, Epstein said he wanted to wait until the Cubs were able to clinch everything possible in the regular season. "If you look back 4 years ago, we were enduring a 101 loss season ... Now, four years later, we're enjoying 101 plus wins," he said, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.

It's possible this could be the final contract between Epstein and the Cubs. This deal with Chicago ties him to the franchise for ten total years. He spent 9 years building the Boston Red Sox into a championship team.

"We'll see how I feel at that point, but certainly there's some symmetry in 10 years. So many things can happen between now and then," Epstein said. "I'm really not thinking beyond trying to win a World Series for this organization."

Here's more from the NL Central:

  • The St. Louis Cardinals kept their wild card hopes alive by completing a controversial walk-off win against the Reds on Thursday night. 

    With two outs and a runner on first base, Yadier Molina hit a ball that bounced on the field then off an advertisement sign beyond the wall. The play should have been ruled dead and a ground-rule double, forcing Matt Carpenter to stop at third base, however the umpires ruled it was still in play and Carpenter scored the game-winning run.

    The Reds attempted to challenge the play but the umpires had already left the field. They said the challenge came too late and ruled the game to be over. "It's a terrible rule,'' Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I mean, that's ridiculous."

    The result left the Cardinals just one game behind the San Francisco Giants for the final playoff spot in the National League entering Friday.

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates will not be playing postseason baseball after an up-and-down year. Speculation has naturally already begun about potential changes within the team for next season.

    One popular opinion amongst fans and analysts is that the Pirates should switch positions for outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. Marte leads the Pirates with 15 defensive runs saved, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette, and McCutchen is last with minus-26.

    While the move may happen at some point, manager Clint Hurdle doesn't think it's necessary now. "I know that there are probably going to be plays that Marte can make in center field that maybe Andrew doesn't make," he said. "[But] Marte makes plays in left that I don't know if any other left fielder in the game can make."

    The positional swap is something to watch for in the future, as McCutchen appears to be on the decline physically.