PITTSBURGH -- Only hours after formally announcing that he had removed Dave Littlefield from his general manager duties, Bob Nutting had a pretty good idea of what would be cast over the radio airwaves, and what was being talked about across kitchen tables Friday night.
"Certainly, every fan of the game has already sat down this afternoon and already made their list," Nutting said, smiling.
Let the speculation begin.
Though careful with his words, Nutting did suggest that he, too, has already begun to formulate a list of potential candidates. While not exhaustive by any means, the names started arriving as Nutting began a search for the team's new CEO, not because he was necessarily already in the market for a new GM.
"There have been a number of names thrown around, many of whom are excellent candidates," Nutting said in regard to his CEO search process. "I believe that we are going to have candidates extremely excited about coming to Pittsburgh who believe that they can do that more effectively than we've done so far."
Part of the reasoning behind Nutting's decision to dismiss Littlefield before the season ended stemmed from his realization that some of the candidates he had interviewed, or names that had been suggested to him, during his CEO search, would be better candidates for the GM position.
As a result, in a decision that Nutting believed to be in the best interest of the future of the club, he wanted to begin the search process before the season concluded, ensuring the Pirates of being at the forefront of the marketplace of potential replacements.
"It's a very desirable position," Nutting said. "People want to be here in Pittsburgh. It's a proud franchise with a long history and tremendous upside."
Again, let the speculation begin.
One who would be more than happy to come to Pittsburgh is actually one who is already there -- Brian Graham, the Pirates senior director of player development, who was named the team's interim GM on Friday.
Graham's credentials -- six years with the Pirates, 26 years in professional baseball -- certainly suggest that he could be a viable candidate for the position. However, Nutting said on Friday, that while he won't completely rule out hiring from within the organization, his plans are to focus the search externally.
"I think it is going to be much easier for someone to come in from outside," Nutting said. "It is always easier when there is a certain kind of change that needs to be effective, to do it from outside. An internal candidate tends to signal a staying the course. An external candidate tends to give better opportunity to change."
While those external options are numerous, a few intriguing names initially stand out.
One has to be Tony LaCava, the current director of player personnel for the Blue Jays, and a resident of Pittsburgh. Not only did LaCava grow up in Pittsburgh, he and his family still live there despite his role with the Toronto club.
A source in Toronto confirmed that LaCava, who many consider one of the top GM candidates waiting in the wings, would very likely be interested in the position given his affinity for the city of Pittsburgh and the Pirates franchise.
Both Dan Duquette, former general manager of the then-Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, and Walt Jocketty, the current senior vice president and general manager of the Cardinals, were both rumored to be possible candidates for the Pirates' vacant CEO position. However, the fact that the two match the baseball-minded mold that Nutting wants his new general manager to fit may suggest that they, too, are being considered.
It is unknown whether Tim Purpura, who was dismissed as GM by the Astros on Aug. 27, will be among those interviewed. He was strongly considered for the position back in 2001, when the Pirates were looking to replace then-GM Cam Bonifay.
Another name that has popped up in the rumor mills is Padres' current baseball front office assistant Paul DePodesta. However, his history with Jim Tracy when both were in the Dodgers organization likely suggests that there would not be a situation in which both would remain associated with the club.
That list of candidates remains mere speculation now. But expect it to become clearer very soon. In the meantime, there are a few things that are known.
Nutting does already have a GM prototype in mind. It would be a GM who understands the realities of both Pittsburgh and the market size of the franchise. It would also be someone who would need to fundamentally understand how to build talent within an organization and within the organization's offshoots, such as the Dominican League.
Also, Nutting wants to make the hire sooner rather than later to ensure that the new GM will be able to have as much say on the makeup of the team's 2008 club as possible.
Furthermore, the Pirates would ideally like to have a CEO in place to assist Nutting with the GM hiring decision because of the fact that the CEO and GM will be working hand-in-hand.
That doesn't mean, however, that Nutting is going to wait for a CEO to be named before he begins his GM search.
"The timing is driven to make sure that we are in the marketplace for the right general manager at the right time," said Nutting, who will begin the GM search immediately. "We can't miss that opportunity."
Asked whether the Astros' dismissal of Purpura on Aug. 27 expedited Nutting's decision to relieve Littlefield of his GM duties, Nutting said that the timing was more driven by being able to be in position to make the best hire possible than by the search process of other clubs.
"I really believe that I try not to be driven by any external factors," Nutting said. "I try to focus on what's the right thing for the Pirates. But certainly we are aware of, and taking into account, what is going on over there.
"I do recognize the urgency," he continued. "We need to be out ahead of other clubs that may be out looking for a general manager in this same period. We want to make sure that we have access to the very best candidates."
As of Friday, the Astros have interviewed seven candidates for their GM opening, with another three set to be interviewed early next week.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.