Tom Ricketts and his staff have kept things relatively quiet. They had people speculating about the Jim Hendry decision and believing the Cubs were in the process of making that decision. The reality was that the decision had been made a month earlier. Now, while everyone seems to be locked in on the Cubs GM search,could it be that the Cubs have made that decision as well, or at least maybe they're a lot closer to it than we think? Not much, if anything, has been leaked so far. In this day and age, that's not easy to do. What little clues, rumors, etc. are out there seem to point in one direction...
West as in Oakland. As in Billy Beane. As in David Forst.
Here's why I think the Cubs may be leaning that way.
1) Beane is becoming frustrated with trying to compete with the big market teams. Where once he was able to find undervalued players and exploit market inefficiencies from underneath everyone's noses, now he has to compete for those types of players. The problem is that other teams have followed his lead and now use some of the same strategies -- except that they've got more money to outbid his team. Beane already had a chance to move to a bigger market opportunity in Boston and passed it up. Would he pass up that chance again if the Cubs came calling given his recent frustrations?
2) The stadium situation is looking a little grim so the financial disadvantage probably isn't going to go away.
3) A's owner Lew Wolff has said he won't stand in the way if Beane has a chance to better his situation.
4) There are rumors that the Cubs met with both Beane and Forst while in SF-- and that Ricketts brought along Tim Wilken, Oneri Fleita, and Ari Kaplan, three key front office execs that the Cubs would like to keep.
5) The Cubs extended Oneri Fleita not too long after this meeting. It could well just be coincidence (and ESPN's Bruce Levine says they did it because the Tigers were after Fleita), but Ricketts has said that he would allow the new GM to make these decisions and the fact that he signed him to a 4 year deal makes you wonder if perhaps Beane has signed off on it.
6) Of all the experienced GMs, Beane would be the most likely to stick with guys like Fleita, Wilken, and the entire Cubs scouting staff. Oakland isn't able to invest in scouting personnel the way the Cubs are, and the current staff here would be an upgrade to what he has right now. Guys like Epstein and Cashman would probably prefer to bring their own guys in.
7) Ricketts did say that the new GM would report directly to him. That would seem to indicate a more experienced GM who doesn't require a go-between. Beane fits that description well. It could also mean that Beane and Forst are coming as a package deal with each getting a promotion when they make the transition to the Cubs: Beane as PBO and Forst as GM.
Although I wouldn't say there's one single solid piece of evidence, when you take them all together, it makes some sense that the Cubs could move in this direction. It would certainly give them a very experienced and very balanced front office that is as good as any in the game -- especially if Forst is part of the deal.
It's just one avenue the Cubs could take but it's not the only one. We've already talked about Ben Cherington as a different kind of option who meets Ricketts criteria for his next GM. Tomorrow we'll talk about a possible sleeper candidate who may fit the Cubs needs a lot better than people realize.
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