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.



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