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Rays GM Andrew Friedman surely a possibility for Cubs

Updated: November 3, 2011 3:56PM

Someone sure to be high on the Cubs’ list of potential general manager candidates already has two strong supporters in the clubhouse, including the guy he traded to the Cubs last January.

‘‘He’s a great GM,’’ pitcher Matt Garza said of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Andrew Friedman, who’s in his sixth year as the Rays’ GM and is considered perhaps the top young general manager in the game.

Garza echoed the sentiments of former Rays teammate Carlos Pena a day earlier.

‘‘That’s probably a biased opinion, but he turned the Tampa Bay team around in, what, two-plus years?’’ Garza said. ‘‘We went on a great run in 2008 [to the World Series], but it’s not like it was a one-year wonder.’’

The Rays beat the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for the American League East title again last season despite being outspent 3-to-1 by the Yankees and more than 2-to-1 by the Red Sox.

‘‘I don’t know how he does it, but year in and year out, he can put together a bullpen and put together the pieces he needs with the type of market he has,’’ Garza said after pitching seven scoreless innings to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 on Saturday. ‘‘I think he’d be great here.’’

The Ricketts ownership ideally would like to have a new GM in place in time to prepare for the annual organizational meetings in late October.

Friedman, who doesn’t work under a contract with Tampa Bay, is also said to be a potential target of the Houston Astros if and when the sale of the team gets finalized.

Meanwhile, at least one other attractive potential candidate for the Cubs, Yankees GM Brian Cashman, spent the last two days telling New York media he’s happy where he is and isn’t interested in considering other jobs, even though he’s in the last year of his contract in New York.

Cashman brings the added attraction of his relationship with Chicago favorite son Joe Girardi, who’s under contract with the Yanks through 2013.

Chairman Tom Ricketts, who fired GM Jim Hendry a month ahead of Hendry’s last day on the job, has been formulating potential candidate lists for longer than that.

He said Friday he’s looking for ‘‘someone who has been in a winning culture and someone who can bring some of the lessons of that over and who has a track record of success.’’

Emphasis on player development and an ability and willingness to incorporate sabermetrics and computer analysis are also key factors, Ricketts said. ‘‘But we need to keep that in perspective,’’ he added. ‘‘We’re not running a baseball organization by computer model.’’

He said he won’t rule out qualified assistant GMs as candidates, keeping the door ajar for rising execs such as the White Sox’ Rick Hahn and Boston’s Ben Cherington, but he prefers the track record as the top guy.

Cashman and Friedman appear to be the top qualified candidates, by the Ricketts’ criteria, who could be available after this season.

‘‘I know there’s plenty of great GMs out there that would be great for this gig — I’d want it,’’ Garza said. ‘‘I think it’s going to be a fun couple of months to see who we get and how it goes.’’

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