There are but 30 general manager jobs in all of Major League Baseball, many of which stay filled – by virtue of a long-time resident, or in-place transition plans – for a decade at a time. It seems like, in any given year, only about two or three GM spots open up. Meanwhile, the list of up-and-coming hot future GM candidates runs at least 20 to 30 deep, which means that most of “the next great GM”s out there will never get a shot to run their own baseball department.
The Chicago Cubs are currently fortunate enough to have (at least) three “next great GM” types at the top of their organizational chart: Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod. The first two have already gotten their shot – and, at present, would seem to be fairly locked down in their current organization – while the third, the Cubs’ current VP of Scouting and Player Development, has not.
So, yesterday, when the San Diego Padres fired GM Josh Byrnes – the man who replaced Hoyer when he departed, with McLeod, for the Cubs – it was fair to feel a little bit of unease. McLeod is a well-respected executive, knows San Diego’s system/situation well, and checks all of the superficial boxes for a job like this.
Here’s the reality about a guy like McLeod, who is constantly listed among the top non-GM executives in baseball: he’s very likely so awesome that he should get a shot at a GM chair someday if he wants it. Whether McLeod wants it is a separate question, one that he’s artfully dodged in the past. But we as fans have to deal with the cognitive dissonance of knowing that McLeod probably deserves a gig like this, and hoping he gets it (because like to live in a world where people who work hard and deserve things should get them if they want them) … and simultaneously hoping he doesn’t get it, because he’s helping the Cubs get to where they need to be for the long haul. You just try very hard to do the first thing, and try very hard not to do the second thing. It ain’t easy.
McLeod, who was San Diego’s top scouting and player development man before coming to the Cubs, is already popping up on short lists for the Padres’ job in the media. The San Diego Union-Tribune has McLeod as one of five possible candidates, together with former Marlins top executive Larry Beinfest, top A’s assistants David Forst and Farhan Zaidi, and former Padres GM (and current Diamondbacks GM (but probably not for long)) Kevin Towers. Padres.com lists McLeod together with Red Sox AGM Mike Hazen and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler as possible candidates.
That is all to say that there will probably be some rumors in the coming weeks as the Padres work to fill their opening. There are many, many quality up-and-coming GM types, though they don’t all have the obvious connection to San Diego. If McLeod is seriously considered, and seriously wants the job, then good luck and God bless, as painful as that might be. If someone else gets the job – and any other GM job that opens up this year – hopefully McLeod remains a key cog in the Cubs’ baseball operations machine.