Now, the Cubs and Red Sox are negotiating so Epstein can take over baseball operations in Chicago.
McNutt, a 32nd-round pick in 2009, has been rumored to be one of the players the Red Sox are targeting. He's just trying to get back on track after an injury-riddled season with Double-A Tennessee. He missed time because of blisters and a bruised rib cage suffered in a collision with teammate Josh Vitters.
The right-hander didn't know he was in the middle of the Epstein-to-Cubs talks until his Mesa Solar Sox teammates told him.
"I just thought it was a joke, and then they showed me and I was like, 'It's for real,'" McNutt told WEEI in Boston after his start Wednesday. "I just didn't think [the Cubs] would trade me, because we need the starting pitching. But anything can happen. That's just how the world works.
"[The rumor] just caught me by shock," McNutt said. "I just didn't think my name would be brought up, so I'm just going to sit and wait and see. Nothing's probably going to happen until after the World Series, so that'll probably be this time next week. You just kind of sit around and wait. Either way, they're both good organizations. If they do trade me, sometimes organizations have to do things they don't want to do and that's just the nature of the game."
The Cubs do need starting pitching, but also a general manager. Epstein, who will be 38 in December, apparently has agreed in principle to a five-year deal with the Cubs, and could be named president of baseball operations. There are reports that Epstein would bring Jed Hoyer, now the Padres GM, to Chicago and Hoyer would handle the general manager duties. Epstein would oversee the baseball operations and be given a different title.
The Cubs have refused to comment on the GM search, and the Red Sox have declined to comment on Epstein's status.
"I know he did a hell of a job with the Red Sox over there," McNutt said of Epstein. "Brought them two World Series. He's a good GM, one of the better ones out there. I think if we get him, he'll do a good job in the Cubs organization for sure."
There were reports that the Cubs and Red Sox could complete the negotiations on Thursday. Major League Baseball, however, imposes a blackout on all announcements during the World Series, which began Wednesday in St. Louis between the Cardinals and Rangers.
MLB did make an exception in October 2009 to allow the Cubs to announce on a travel day that the Ricketts family had completed the purchase of the ballclub and taken control from the Tribune Co.
McNutt is trying not to let the rumors disrupt his work on the mound.
"I dont know what's going to happen," he said. "It's out of my hands. I'm just trying to focus on pitching out here and trying to get better. You learn to take everything in stride, really. You don't take the game for granted. You go out there and work hard every day, and that's all you can ask for."