CHICAGO -- While the Cubs -- and the rest of baseball -- wait to see whether Joe Girardi will stay with the Yankees, there are reports that the team has reached out to former D-backs manager A.J. Hinch about its managerial vacancy.
Hinch, 39, who just finished his second full season as a vice president/assistant general manager for the Padres, would not comment about the Cubs' interest when contacted Wednesday by MLB.com. He was hired in San Diego by Jed Hoyer, who was the Padres' general manager at that time and is currently the Cubs' GM.
A former big league catcher, Hinch was also the D-backs' farm director. That would give him experience with young players, which Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said is essential in the next hiring.
"We're going to look, first and foremost, at candidates with managerial experience," Epstein said Monday when he announced Dale Sveum had been dismissed as manager after two seasons. "But I don't want to rule out a candidate who hasn't managed but may have demonstrated real leadership over a long period of time in another role as a team leader, in a Minor League capacity, in an executive capacity.
"There are other ways you can show leadership," Epstein said. "I think the most germane is as a Major League manager. I see no reason to limit our search. Let's put it this way -- there have been first-time Major League managers who are outstanding leaders immediately, as they came in the door."
Hinch played from 1998-2004 with the Athletics, Royals, Tigers and Phillies, and compiled a career .219 batting average. He never played at Wrigley Field, but he did manage five games there after taking over for Bob Melvin as the D-backs manager in 2009. At that point, Hinch had never managed or coached at any level. He was fired on July 1, 2010, following a 31-48 start. He does have a psychology degree from Stanford.
FOX Sports and MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal reported that Hinch was on the Cubs' list of possibilities, and that he would be a "more viable candidate" than another former catcher, Brad Ausmus, whose name also has been mentioned. Ausmus also is in the Padres' front office as a special assistant to the general manager.
Girardi's three-year, $9 million contract with the Yankees expires at the end of October, and he met Monday with general manager Brian Cashman to begin negotiations. Cashman was to meet with Girardi's agent on Wednesday.
"We're going to give him a real good reason to stay," Cashman told reporters in New York on Monday.
Girardi was a fifth-round Draft pick by the Cubs in 1986, and he played for the team from 1989-92, and again from 2000-02.
Does the next Cubs manager have to have ties to the team?
"Candidates who have Cubs experience in their background will have the built-in advantage of knowing some of the idiosyncrasies of the marketplace and the franchise," Epstein said. "They might be better equipped in that one area to deal with the gauntlet that can be managing the Cubs.
"Is it a prerequisite, or does it mean that candidates can't be prepared who haven't been through here?" he said. "No, but there's a bit more of an adjustment period as I've discovered when you come from the outside."
Epstein and Hoyer also feel better prepared now that they've spent two years with the team.
"We have some advantages now," Epstein said. "I think we have a better feel for the organization. I know exactly what we need right now, because we've been growing this together. There's been a plan. We're actually on target with our plan."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.