The open Cubs' general manager job is highly coveted, and it's no surprise that a lot of big-name executives have already been mentioned as possibilities. However, it should be noted that big-time GMs very rarely jump from one major job to another (it is hard to think of many instances where it's happened), and it is quite possible the Cubs will end up with a slightly less experienced but still excellent person in the role.
The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times have suggested that new owner Tom Ricketts will aim high, and considering all the Cubs have to offer, it's possible he may yet buck history and land a big fish currently employed by another team with a large payroll. However, existing contracts, strong allegiances and geography could all conspire to scuttle any plans along those lines, as they usually do.
Bits and pieces about the Cubs' search have come out, and it appears Ricketts is sticking to his word to be open-minded as current GMs, former GMs and and aspiring GMs seem to be on the early list. Word is, he has at least looked into Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, former Diamondbacks GM and current Padres executive Josh Byrnes and longtime White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn. Meanwhile news reports have suggested the vaunted quartet of Yankees GM Brian Cashman, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, A's GM Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman of the Rays are at least on the Cubs' dream list, and even Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick's name has been floated (though Gillick is seen as likely to prefer a president's job after a quarter century of success as GM of the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies.
One thing's for sure. Whether the Cubs lure one of the biggest names in the game, the iconic North Side team is a draw because of the high revenue, higher interest, preferred location and rich history (while they haven't won the World Series since 1908 they do have a strong tradition and represent a nice challenge). So they will surely get someone capable and qualified. Here are some of the possibilities:
1. Rick Hahn, White Sox assistant GM. The Chicago product and Northwestern grad (he also has degrees from Harvard and the University of Michigan) is perhaps the most logical choice. He's a big part of the White Sox front office, a sharp guy adept at the "analytical'' strength Ricketts has said he seeks and he is geographically desirable. He's turned down chances for interviews to GM elsewhere but surely wouldn't turn down this one. Considering availability, he is quite possibly the early favorite to land the job.
2. Andrew Friedman, Rays GM. He's done magical work with a miniscule payroll, so it's no wonder long-suffering Cubs fans are imagining what he could do with a payroll among baseball's highest. He's made many good trades, including the one to send Matt Garza to the Cubs for prospects that included pitcher Chris Archer and outfielder Sam Fuld. Friedman is operating without a contract, according to someone familiar with the Tampa situation, but while this oddity suggests he's free to leave, it also goes a long way toward demonstrating the sort of close relationship he has with Rays owner Stu Sternberg. Friedman seems likely to stay, but if he goes somewhere, maybe his hometown Houston Astros are more likely.
3. Josh Byrnes. While he was let go during a disappointing season in Arizona last year, he did have success there, reaching the 2007 NLCS. He always has impressed folks with his smarts, integrity and willingness to take risks. Has a multitude of experience, too. He finished second for the Mets job before landing with the cash-strapped Padres as a VP of baseball operations but helped win a title in Boston while working in the Red Sox front office.
4. Theo Epstein, Red Sox GM. He's in a very positive situation in Boston, where he has a high payroll, a passionate fan base and a supportive owner in John Henry. Whatever difficulty there may have been co-existing with Red Sox team president Larry Luccino now seems to be in the past, too. Epstein, a Boston native and Yale graduate whose contracts runs out after 2012, appears to be a in a good place now. So it's hard to imagine he'd leave.
5. Ned Colletti, Dodgers GM. He has an out in his long-term deal after 2012, but it may not be fair to tie him to the bankrupt Dodgers even that long. He was a public relations person with the Cubs a lifetime ago, before working in the Giants' front office where he negotiated contracts and then becoming GM in Los Angeles, where he helped build a winner before the cutbacks killed them this year. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt shouldn't make anyone stay. But who knows what he'd do?
6. Brian Cashman, Yankees GM. Even when it seemed he might bolt the Yankees in the past, he stayed. Now it seems that Cashman, a Yankee lifer, is more tied to his job than ever. Seems to have an excellent relationship with his bosses. His contract is up, but a new one will be arranged at year's end.
7. Pat Gillick, Phillies consultant. Baseball insiders believe Gillick would consider a team president post but is unlikely to take a fifth GM job. Gillick, a Southern California native who lives in Seattle, is also seen as preferring the West Coast
8. Billy Beane, A's GM. There has been some word of some frustration related to Oakland's payroll restrictions and their continuing stadium issues, according to friends, and there's little doubt the brilliant Beane would be a coup. But Beane is also a California native who enjoys the casual Bay Area motif. Beyond that, he is also a four-percent owner of the A's, so leaving would be complicated.
9. Kim Ng, MLB exec. She's a University of Chicago product who worked in the front office of three major-market teams -- the Yankees, Dodgers and White Sox. Ricketts surely would earn bonus points with MLB for hiring the first female GM.
10. Allard Baird, Red Sox assistant GM. Epstein's top scout should get another chance after suffering as the loyal Royal GM before the Glass family later loosened the purse strings.
11. John Coppolella, Braves assistant GM. He fits the bill as a young analytical type who has apprenticed in a winning atmosphere. As a bonus he's a University of Notre Dame grad, and Chicago is home to many actual and subway alumni of the Irish.
12. Others: Red Sox assistant GM Ben Cherrington, Dodgers assistant GM DeJon Watson, Dodgers assistant GM Logan White, Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans, Rockies assistant GM Bill Geivett, Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, Diamondbacks assistant GM Jerry DiPoto, Rangers executive A.J. Preller, Indians assistant GM Mike Chernoff, A's assistant GM David Forst, A's executive Billy Owens, Padres executive John Abbamondi, Tigers assistant GM Al Avila, Mets assistant GM John Ricco, MLB executive Peter Woodfork, Marlins assistant GM Dan Jennings, Rockies assistant GM Jeff Bridich, Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, Nationals assistant GM Bryan Minniti.
• The reason the White Sox didn't put in a waiver claim on Jim Thome and instead let him go to the Indians is that they need to keep the DH spot free for Paul Konerko at present. It's good to see Thome back in Cleveland, the place where he started his career in 1991. That may be the one town where he has a couple detractors, too, so it was nice that he accepted the trade to Cleveland, which is only on the fringe of the AL Central race now. The Twins were kind to leave it up to him, too, and not insist on holding onto their one positive story of 2011.
• The Tigers will surely pick up closer Jose Valverde's $8 million club option. He is 38 for 38 in saves, and a real bargain.
• Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that, barring something unforeseen, the team would pick up ace pitcher Adam Wainwright's $21 million, two-year option. The value of aces is very high, and the chance to return well from Tommy John surgery is also very high. It was suggested in this space just after the surgery that this was the strong probability. Good job by the club putting a rare two-year option in the contract for such a talented pitcher.
• Nice work for the Angels to get star pitcher Jered Weaver re-signed to an $85 million, five-year extension. Agent Scott Boras advised Weaver to wait for free agency but Weaver, a Simi Valley native and Long Bach State product, badly wanted to stay so he took the offer that was comparable to the contracts given to fellow AL ace righties Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander.
• The Cubs never showed any inclination to trade Carlos Peña after he was claimed by the Yankees. The Cubs are thought interested in bringing back Peña for 2012, though it is hard to know for sure since they have to select a GM first.
• No matter who gets the Cubs' GM job, baseball lifer Mike Quade is seen as a long shot now to return as Cubs manager. He waited a lifetime for a chance and it appears he will only get one full year. It's hard to blame him, but the team has not achieved this year, sitting 17 games under .500 and 20 ½ games out of first in the NL Central. Despite the history, the Cubs' managing position will also be highly coveted. Cubs icon Ryne Sandberg, who was passed over last time and is in the Phillies organization, is getting positive reviews again and is one obvious candidate, though some may feel yet another person without major league managing experience would be too big a gamble.
• Jorge Posada's playing time would have been limited even more had Peña gone to the Yankees.
• The Yankees' playoff rotation should have Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon following ace CC Sabathia.
• It's amazing to see Derek Jeter back at .300 after his dreadful start. Although it wasn't apparent the day he got his 3,000th hit, he later admitted the milestone was weighing on him. He's taken of since.
• The Giants could use closer Padres Heath Bell, who they claimed off waivers, though nobody on either team saw a trade as very likely. The Padres tried all July to trade Bell, but the asking price has to beat the two draft choices attached to him. The Giants have Brian Wilson out with an elbow injury and Sergio Romo expected out another seven-to-10 days.
• It is expected someone will make a claim on Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez. Cincinnati is believed to be open to trading him since it has top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco coming.
• The Braves pitching, in the word of one scout, is "ridonkulous.'' Fair assessment.
• The Rangers' Adrian Beltre (hamstring) is expected to begin his rehab assignment soon.
• The alleged SI cover jinx isn't strong enough to affect the Brewers, in my opinion.
• The Astros' multiyear deal for Wandy Rodriguez, which has $36 million to go might be thought to be high by some teams (the Yankees offered to pay $21 million of it while offering a player before the July 31 trade deadline), but the Rockies' claim suggests it isn't as bad as believed. Colorado's trade offer did ask Houston to pay part of the contract but the waiver process would have allowed Houston to just make Colorado take Wandy and assume the whole contract. Colorado might have been confident Houston wouldn't do that, as the Astros requested big-time players back (they sought one of two top prospects, either lefthander Drew Pomeranz or catcher Wilin Rosario, according to @TroyRenck of the Denver Post).
• Logan Morrison returned to the Marlins after a 10-day stay at Triple-A New Orleans. The unstated reason for the demotion was that the Marlins wanted Morrison, who turned 24 on Thursday, to tone down his act. Here's hoping he continues having fun, however, especially as @LoMoMarlins
• The Mets' David Wright actually cleared waivers when he was placed on them weeks ago. No major conclusion needs to be drawn from this. Many teams put all their players on waivers in August since they can be pulled back if claimed. Placing players on waivers is a way to learn a tiny bit about the interest and to disguise which players they truly hope to trade. It doesn't mean Wright is unpopular, either, as teams know the Mets wouldn't allow Wright to go for nothing via waivers.
• According to the count of @790Justin, 347 people attended the Reds game at Florida that was pushed up to Wednesday afternoon for weather considerations.
• My current MVP picks (subject to change) are: Ryan Braun and @cgrand14.