When I made my list of GM candidates, I had a few people ask me about Andrew Friedman, the soon to be free agent GM of the Tampa Rays. It's a valid question. Friedman is one of the strongest candidates out there from an analytical standpoint, and he has built a very strong organization to compete with the games two biggest giants, the Yankees and Red Sox, in the AL East.
He also has more experience than any candidate I listed. So why not Friedman?
My first thought was that I just didn't think he was all that attainable. If he does indeed become a free agent GM, then the Cubs will have to compete with Friedman's hometown team, the Houston Astros. There are some reasons, however, to think he could be in play for the Cubs...
1. The Cubs GM spot is the best position available. A big market and an owner who wants to win -- and Ricketts will invest in player development, scouting, and well, pretty much whatever any GM would want. Don't think that other execs around the league didn't notice how Ricketts helped seal the deal on the Cubs best draft in a decade. There's also lots of money coming off the books and any GM will inherit the most financial flexibility this team has seen in years.
2. Friedman isn't one of the top scouting GMs in the game, he relied heavily on Gary Hunsicker to shore up some of his weaknesses. On the bright side, the Cubs do have Tim Wilken and Oneri Fleita, two of the most respected old school scouts in the game for him to lean on. Wilken and Fleita have also shown they can be flexible as far as taking a more modern approach, specifically focusing on players with more OBP potential of late.
3. By firing Hendry before the season is over, the Cubs have a head start on Houston while they resolve their ownership situation. Ricketts wants to start the process as soon as possible. Could it be that he's looking to get the jump on Friedman and some of the other bigger candidates out there?
4. It may be in his best interests to leave the AL East where he would have to compete not just with the Yankees and Red Sox, but now the emerging Blue Jays as well. The NL Central, on the other hand, can seemingly be won by any team at any time. Of course, that doesn't differentiate the Cubs from the Astros in anyway, but I think the first 3 reasons on this list make a good case for the Cubs being the better choice than simply picking his hometown team.
Some reports have Friedman listed as a longshot candidate for the Cubs, but it doesn't mean they shouldn't kick the tires just in case. If Friedman reciprocates serious interest, then the Cubs should make an honest effort to land him. I'm still a huge fan of Ben Cherington and I still believe he has the best all-around skill set out there, but Friedman's track record can't be denied. My dream scenario is for the job to come down to these two guys. If that happens, the Cubs simply can't lose either way.
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