New Dodger owner Frank McCourt began searching for a new general manager Friday, but the position he hopes to fill by the start of spring training is not yet vacant.
In a bizarre and believed-to-be unprecedented twist, McCourt said that current GM Dan Evans would be a candidate ... for his own job.
"Dan was one of the first people we talked to [Friday], and we did indicate to him that we were going to take a look [at a new GM]," said McCourt, whose $430-million purchase of the Dodgers was approved Thursday. "Dan is going to be included. I wasn't sandbagging him. He is a legitimate candidate here. We wanted to give him a fair shot.... Everybody deserves a fair shake."
Evans, who is entering the last year of a three-year contract that pays $500,000 a year, confirmed that he met with McCourt on Friday but declined comment on the situation. He did not immediately resign and did not appear to have any intention of resigning.
Still, he is now in the awkward position of trying to do his job while his boss looks for someone to replace him.
"I haven't been a GM forever, but in my eight or nine years, I've just never heard of that ever happening," San Diego Padre GM Kevin Towers said. "If I was the GM, and that happened to me, I wouldn't say that was a real strong vote of confidence from ownership. I wouldn't feel comfortable.... I probably wouldn't be real effective or efficient at the job if someone was looking for another GM while I was still in the job."
McCourt has not sought permission to speak to any executives who are now under contract. That process, he said, will begin early next week.
Baseball officials have mentioned Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletic GM, and Pat Gillick, the former Seattle Mariner, Baltimore Oriole and Toronto Blue Jay GM, as leading candidates to replace Evans.
But A's owner Steve Schott said he would not grant the Dodgers permission -- at least this year -- to interview Beane, who is signed through 2008, and Gillick said Friday that he wouldn't be interested in the job.
Among those who could be candidates: Montreal GM Omar Minaya, who probably would welcome a situation with more stability and long-term promise than the nomadic Expos, former Boston Red Sox GM Dan Duquette, who was fired in February 2000, and assistant GMs Paul DePodesta (Oakland), Ned Colletti (San Francisco) and Grady Fuson (Texas).
And, of course, the man who still has the job, Evans.
"We'll make judgments and decisions as we move forward, but we want to do this in a thoughtful way," McCourt said. "Dan's status has not changed. He is the general manager. I'm going to open it up a little bit and have some conversations, but he's certainly a viable candidate."
Evans, along with the rest of the front office, has been in limbo for 3 1/2 months as McCourt's ownership bid played out.
McCourt didn't seem to think his GM search would handcuff Evans, who needs to acquire an impact hitter. "If there's something that he wants to do, I told him to speak to me and I would give him a direct answer," McCourt said. "He's the GM. I'm not taking anything away from him."
Evans' role, however, already appears reduced. A high-ranking Dodger official this week contacted Greg Maddux to gauge the free-agent pitcher's interest in joining the team, a club source said, and it is believed that Evans was unaware of the contact.
"We're not going to discuss any specifics," said Scott Boras, Maddux's agent. "All I'll say is that the Dodgers have expressed to me and Greg their interest. When the time is right, we'll address the situation."
Evans had a chance to trade for former Pittsburgh slugger Brian Giles last summer and Chicago White Sox slugger Magglio Ordonez this winter but refused to part with the players and prospects required to make those deals, citing his commitment to the farm system and building from within.
To his credit, McCourt said, as the ownership process continued, Evans did not deviate from his philosophy just to make a trade that might bolster his chances of retaining his job.
"I have a lot of respect for Dan in how he's conducted himself before we even entered the picture," McCourt said. "The transition, the sale of a baseball club, is a difficult thing on everybody, particularly the GM. He hasn't done things that were good for him but not good for the Dodgers.... I trust that he's made decisions, throughout this process, that are in the best interest of the Dodgers."
Gillick, 66, appeared to be a qualified candidate for the Dodgers -- he was the Blue Jay general manager for back-to-back World Series titles in the early 1990s -- and his hiring would not cost the Dodgers any compensation in terms of players or draft picks.
But if the Dodgers call, Gillick, who recently resigned as Mariner GM to accept a consulting role for new Seattle GM Bill Bavasi, said, "I don't think I'd be interested. Right now, I'm perfectly satisfied doing what I'm doing."
Gillick seemed perplexed by Friday's developments.
"I wish the Dodgers luck -- that's always been a great franchise -- but [with three weeks until spring training] it's kind of late to find a general manager," Gillick said. "Why don't they keep Evans? I know he hasn't done too much this winter, but I kept hearing he had one arm tied behind his back [because of the ownership change]."
Staff writer Ross Newhan contributed to this report.