For a while now, Jason McLeod has seen his name rise up the list of potential general manager candidates around Major League Baseball.
McLeod, the Cubs' senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting, has had his name pop up in reports after the San Diego Padres fired GM Josh Byrnes earlier this week.
When Theo Epstein took over the Cubs front office, he hired McLeod away from San Diego, where McLeod was working as an assistant GM.
McLeod knows the Padres system and the organization, but there are several candidates being discussed according to FOXSports' Ken Rosenthal, including internal candidates like assistant GM A.J. Hinch, who interviewed for the Cubs' managerial vacancy this offseason, and Omar Minaya as well as former Marlins GM Larry Beinfest.
The Padres have requested to speak with several external options, including McLeod, New York Yankees' Billy Eppler, St. Louis' Michael Girsch, Boston's Mike Hazen, Texas' Thad Levin and Oakland's David Forst.
"I'm going to let all the news out of the Padres search come out of San Diego," Epstein said Friday at Wrigley Field. "That's how I would expect it if we were looking for an executive. But, suffice it to say, I think the world of Jason. We've worked together on and off since 1995. He's one of my best friends.
"He's done a great job here leading the scouting and player development staff and he'd be an asset to any organization if and when he feels like he's ready for that next step, which I certainly feel that he is. He'd be at the top of anybody's list."
McLeod declined to comment on the speculation surrounding the Padres' GM search.
McLeod has helped turn the Cubs' farm system into one of the best in baseball, with seven Cubs players on Baseball America's Top 100 list, including two — Javier Baez and Kris Bryant — in the Top 10.
Still, Epstein believes the Cubs would be just fine as an organization if the day ever came where McLeod left to become a GM somewhere else.
"It'd be a big loss, obviously, because he's really talented," Epstein said. "His heart is in this the way mine is and the way all of our hearts are in it, but this organization is bigger than any one person. I'm not going anywhere, but if I stepped away tomorrow, we'd be fine.
"Everyone else would pick up the slack. Whenever we lose a key person, I expect that others will step up and pick up the slack and we'll continue moving in the right direction.
"Jason is a huge talent and if at some point now — or a few years down the line — I expect him to do a great job as a GM."