Obsessive Cubs GM Watch: A Way-Too-Early Short List

I remain of the belief that it’s too early to have a true sense of the Chicago Cubs’ short list of general manager candidates, and, so, in that respect, this is merely an exercise in guessing. But, the Cubs’ GM job is expected – for good reason – to attract the best and brightest, about whom I plan to go into some more depth as the search process goes on.

In the interest of getting some of those names in front of you – and, were I to do that excercise in guessing, I do think these would be among the names at he top of the Cubs’ list – here are five of the biggest names you’ll be hearing quite a bit about in connection with the Cubs’ GM opening. Each satisfies many of Tom Ricketts’ explicit criteria for the Cubs’ next GM (success running a franchise, good background in player development, and an interest in utilizing advanced statistics), as well as some of the implicit criteria (younger, up-and-coming, smart enough to run the “baseball side” of things with no input other than from Ricketts).

In alphabetical order:

Josh Byrnes, San Diego Padres VP of Baseball Operations. The 41-year-old Byrnes has been the subject of previous rumors around these parts, and was formerly a successful GM with the Diamondbacks. Though he was fired from that post after last season, the young team he built is contending in the NL West. Prior to his time with the Diamondbacks, Byrnes spent time in the Indians’ and Rockies’ front offices, and was an assistant GM in Boston under Theo Epstein.

Brian Cashman, New York Yankees GM. The top man in the Yankees’ front office has always had the kind of financial support that other GMs can only dream of. But Cashman, 44, has generally used that financial backing quite well – all while facing the pressure of the toughest market in America. Money alone doesn’t buy you a playoff ticket – ask the Cubs – and the Yankees always make the playoffs. Cashman is a free agent after this season, and has clashed with Yankee owners the Steinbrenners. If I had to guess, Cashman is Ricketts’ current favorite.

Ben Cherington, Boston Red Sox Assistant GM. Cherington, 37, is considered Theo Epstein’s righthand man, and one of the top executives in the game. If he’s going to get a shot at a GM gig, he’ll probably have to look outside of the organization, though, because Epstein is also just 37 (and is wildly successful). Ricketts has said repeatedly that he’d like to follow the Red Sox model, so why not just take one of the team’s top assistants?

Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay Rays GM. Friedman, 34, is the GM-equivalent of Prince Fielder – young, a “free agent” (Friedman doesn’t have a contract), hugely successful, and as hot a commodity as the baseball executive world has to offer. A former financial analyst, Friedman used his statistical accumen to turn the Rays into a perennial contender despite a bare bones payroll. And, despite his relative youth, he’s plenty experienced – he’s sat in the GM chair for six seasons now. When the Astros’ sale goes through, the Houston, Texas native is expected to be targeted heavily to take over in Houston.

Rick Hahn, Chicago White Sox Assistant GM. If you asked around town, you would probably pick up the sense that Hahn, 40, is the local favorite to get the job. Though he currently works for the cross-town rival, Hahn is as respected in the game as any assistant in all of baseball (literally: he is repeatedly selected by third-party publications as the top GM “prospect” in baseball). He is one of many of a crop of “new school” executives (for which Epstein is the poster boy): highly-educated, business savvy, numerically-inclined, and successful in everything they do. He also grew up a Cubs fan, and already understands the Chicago market.

You will also be hearing plenty about folks like Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colleti, MLB VP of Baseball Ops Kim Ng, and Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, and many, many others. The Cubs’ GM job has essentially not been available for over a decade, and now sports a young, excited owner who is saying and doing all the things that a GM candidate should be looking for in a future boss. The true list of candidates should be long and impressive.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

45 responses to “Obsessive Cubs GM Watch: A Way-Too-Early Short List”

  1. Toosh

    If these 5 were on Ricketts “short list” too, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

  2. Jeff

    I’m not real big on Rick Hahn. The White Sox aren’t much better at player development than the Cubs are, and that was one of Rickett’s big job requirements. I like Cherington, and he actually was co-gm while Theo Epstein was on his hiatus, so he has some experience. I think Rickett’s is looking for the big name signing though.

    1. awesome

      agree, plus Hahn has had 4 interviews, last one with Mets and didn’t get the job.

      i’d go for Friedman, Cherington, and Cashman in that order.

  3. Toosh

    I believe the Chicago factor cannot be stressed enough. Had Hendry hired Girardi the first time he had the chance, OR the second time, the Cubs would not be in the spot they are now. That being said, if Ricketts could get Cashman AND Girardi, that would be great.

  4. MichiganGoat

    I’m always concerned of just how good an assistant is without the person he’s assisting. Some people are great assistants but can’t do it on their own. I’m not saying the assistants on this list won’t/can’t be successful but it’s a risk I’m sure Ricketts considers. The other concern is if a small market/payroll GM will be successful with the pressure of a large market and if they can effectively spend the 150M. For these reasons I’d think the safe pick is Cashman because he’s been successful in the largest market, but I also expect a dark horse candidate to arise. Curious if Pat Gillick is secrectly advising Ricket is there any candidates that have work with him in the past.

    1. Ron Swanson

      Yep, I agree. You never know if an assistant can make that step. Ricketts can’t take that chance and I think he knows it.

  5. Derek

    I would love to get cashman but why would he want to leave a team that will pay whatever it takes to get someone to go to a team that cut funds from a year ago.

    1. Ron Swanson

      I think its been well documented why the Yanks/Steinbrenners may not be perfect employers. Plus new challenge, etc. I could see it.

  6. Toosh

    Just read where the Cubs would like to have their new GM in place by Oct. 1st. That would rule out Cashman and Cherington. Their teams are just starting the part of the season that matters.

    1. Jason

      I’d have a hard time believing that Ricketts would make a choice before interviewing all of the people that he wants to interview. And with an October 1st deadline, that means that the regular season will barely be over. Seems like too fast of a timeframe to make this decision. I’d wonder about the source of this information?

      1. Toosh

        Buster Olney.

  7. Larry

    I think you have a very good list of candidates here, Brett and I would be surprised if they are not the same names on Ricketts list. I will say, however, that no matter how appealing Cashman is, there is no way that the Yankees allow him to leave after the season. He has thrived working in the 3 ring circus that is the New York Yankees. He handles the fan base and the media very well. He has stuck around longer and more successfully with the Steinbrenners than anyone else in recent memory. In spite of the very deep pockets of the team, he has spent the money allocated to him very well, in building a team that works hard, has an incredible OBP and compliment each other very well. Yankee ownership has to realize how much they need him and they will fight tooth and nail to keep him.

    Looking at what Friedman has developed in Tampa Bay, you have to think that the Cubs job is his if he wants it. He has developed a winning culture on a shoestring budget, while building one of the strongest farm systems in the game. The way he has put the Rays together, they should be successful for a long time to come. It is almost hard to believe that the Rays were so bad just a few short years ago. I would have to think that Ricketts list begins and ends with Freidman’s name.

  8. Cheryl

    Brett, The list looks impressive. A few questions. I’ve heard that the rift between Cushman and the Steinbrenners is such that Cashman might want out. However, he has lived in New York a long time. Even with the cubs job being available, would he be interested?

    Would any of the people on your list be available October 1? How much input will the players have?

    1. Toosh

      Players have ZERO input on the hiring of a GM.

      1. Cheryl

        Good. I was pretty sure they had zero input. If the team is to be turned around there’s players that need to be moved.

  9. KB

    I think Friedman is the clear # 1 choice, but it’s very possible that he’ll opt for his hometown Astros, who are also looking for a GM.

  10. Toosh

    The Astros are also in the process of being sold. The prospective new owner might want to hire his own GM.

  11. MichiganGoat

    Bobby V. really called out the coaching staff tonight when he noticed that Castro had his back to plate and then ESPN watched him regularly standing upright, hand off glove, starring at the stands. Bobby V was really hard on the lack of consequences that is coming from the management and the lack of development of Castro. It was nice to see national attention pointed at this coaching staff, it will be interesting to see if this is addresses in the next couple of games. Brett, bullet worthy?

    1. Dave

      I heard that too, pretty brutal really. More an indictment of Quade than Castro in my mind. Wonder if Ryno or Girardi would put up with that kind of stuff.

      1. MichiganGoat

        It was a complete smash of Q and his staff without directly saying it. Castro really needs a couple days off 1- he’s never played this many games in a row 2- he looks distracted, frustrated, and exhausted.

        I really liked the “cancer” statement Bobby V said about what happens on a team when laziness and is allowed.

    2. Toosh

      I never liked Bobby Valentine. He always seemed like a self-promoter to me. Maybe he’s interested in a position with the Cubs. Back to L.A. or New York or Japan, Bobby.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Could be but he was spot on, spot on.

  12. KB

    Valentine is hardly the first person to publicly say that the Cubs are an undisciplined, unfocused team. You think Kirk Gibson would put up with this crap? Mike Scioscia? No way in hell.
    If ever a team was in need of a complete colon cleanse, it’s this sad organization.

    1. MichiganGoat

      Exactly we’ve seen this the Chicago media has seen it, but every time there’s a national broadcast Q seems to get praised (i.e. Grace did it yesterday). I was just happy to see almost half an inning was directed on this issue on a national stage. Really waiting to see how Q and the Cubs respond tomorrow.

      1. Dave

        Quade added he would talk to his coaches and “call Bobby, see what he saw.”

        http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-spt-0822-cubs-cardinals-chicago–20110822,0,1617458.story

        I understand that there is a game going on, but with ESPN’s cameras on Castro, you could see the entire inning that he wasn’t too terribly interested in exactly what was going on. Yeah, he’s young and kids are both dumb and easily distracted, but I have a hard time believing this is the first time Castro has had that demeanor in the field and an even harder time believing Quade hasn’t noticed.

  13. Dusty's toothpick

    Steve Stone for GM anyone?

    1. MichiganGoat

      NO,NO,NO I hope this is sarcasm

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