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A potential Chicago Cubs’ general manager candidate about whom we’ve heard very little to this point is Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo. As a Chicago native who is leading the turnaround of an up-and-coming organization, Rizzo’s name popped up on a few lists immediately after Jim Hendry was shown the door. Since then, though, you’ve not seen his name much.

This weekend, Rizzo put his own name back into the mix by speaking on the Cubs’ GM vacancy, and attempting to scuttle speculation. In doing so, though, his “denial” sounded suspiciously like Theo Epstein’s non-denial last week.

“I grew up on Waveland Avenue for 30 years, right down the street from the ballpark,” Rizzo said. “And there’s nowhere I’d rather be than the Washington Nationals right now, with where we’re at and what we’re doing and the commitment that the Lerners have shown to me. [The Cubs are] my hometown team. They were my team growing up. I went to many, many games there. But this is the place I need to be.”

Again with the “right now.” I know a big part of that is executive-speak, but these guys certainly do know how to leave doors open.

Other folks have reacted to this statement by Rizzo as a clear denial of interest in the Cubs’ job, but I simply don’t see that. I see a guy who seems to be going out of his way to remind the people of Chicago – including, perhaps the Ricketts family – that he’s one of them. He could have said, “I’m not interested in the Cubs’ job, even if they came asking about me.” Instead, he said, “Right now I’m with the Nationals, and this is where I need to be.”

How many times have you heard a manager, coach, or executive say something like that months before making a move?

Rizzo is an accomplished baseball man, coming up through White Sox and Red Sox ranks as a scout before taking over as the Director of Scouting for the Diamondbacks from 2000 to 2006. From there, he became an assistant GM with the Nationals under Jim Bowden, taking over as interim GM when Bowden resigned before the 2009 season. He was promoted to the full-time GM mid-season. This past offseason, he was given a five-year contract extension.

In his current stint as GM of the Nats – he’s also already been given the organizational reigns as the director of baseball ops – Rizzo has overseen a suddenly almost-competitive team, and led three of the best drafts in the organization’s history. Of course, it’s easy to have superb drafts when you’re picking first and Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are on the board, but the 2009-2011 stretch is considered excellent, even setting aside those two top picks.

Even the biggest potential black mark on Rizzo – the midseason handling of a contract dispute with former manager Jim Riggleman – could be considered a positive by those who appreciated Rizzo’s hardline stance. And Rizzo got the better of “Trader Jim” on the Tom Gorzelanny deal earlier this year, so he’s got that going for him, too.

Make no mistake: if there were a legitimate chance that Rizzo would come, he would be near the top of the list of likely targets. And, indeed, a source tells Adam Kilgore that Rizzo is “definitely” on the Cubs’ wish list.

Fortunately for the Cubs, unlike with other GM targets like Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman (and, to a lesser extent, Andrew Friedman), whose teams are still playing very meaningful baseball, Rizzo’s Nationals are long out of the race. If the Cubs want to interview him in late September or early October, the team’s schedule won’t be a hinderance.

  • Ron Swanson

    “where I NEED to be” vs. “want” to be is an interesting choice of words. That being said, I say no thanks. The Cubs can do better.

  • Mike Foster

    “…..Rizzo’s Nationals are long out of the race. If the Cubs want to interview him in late September or early October, the team’s schedule won’t be a hinderance. ”

    Not a ringing endorsement is it.

    I agree, the Chicago Cubs and the market can do better …..and deserves better.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I get the impression that folks will be disappointed by anyone other than Epstein, Friedman or Cashman. If that’s the case, many, many folks will be disappointed. I like those three, too, but they are unlikely.

      Rizzo is a great candidate, in my humble opinion.

      • Sean C

        That Jayson Werth contract scares me. A lot.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          You know, that’s a good point. It’s just one move, but it maybe the worst contract in baseball history – which is saying a lot.

          I wonder how much that was Rizzo, and how much it was ownership desperate to land a marquis player to help attendance in their new stadium. Not trying to excuse him – I genuinely wonder. Great point, though, Sean.

          • Fishin Phil

            Worse than the Soriano contract????

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              It’s possible. Soriano was productive in the first few years of his deal. We’ll see what happens with Werth’s, but it’s looking bad early. He turns 33 next year, and the Nats have him for FIVE years AFTER next year. He’s got a full no-trade clause, and he makes $20 million, $21 million, $21 million, and $21 million per year from 2014 to 2017. Holy God. Every time I look at it, I just can’t get over how bad it is. I’ve changed my mind.

              Yes. It’s almost certainly going to end up worse than Soriano’s.

            • Deez

              Way Worse. Compare the numbers. Soriano has been productive in the early years. Soriano is more productive this year than Werth (although, Werth gives you SBs). He’s definitely worse than Soriano w/ RISP.

      • DaveB23

        Give me Epstein or give me death!!
        (Will take Friedman as a backup, but that’s about as far as it goes)

        Obviously a longshot, but a guy can dream can’t he?

  • NL_Cubs

    Rizzo? Not “Werth” the consideration.

    More dumb money/contract mentality need not apply.

  • dreese

    “Rizzo is an accomplished baseball man, coming up through White Sox and Red Sox ranks as a scout before taking over as the Director of Scouting for the Diamondbacks from 200o to 2006.

    Whats this Brett?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You know, someone played a cruel joke on writers when they put the zero and the O right next to each other on the keyboard.

      • dreese

        Bastards!

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