The Theo Epstein-Terry Francona combo worked in Boston and there's a chance the duo might play in Chicago.
"Tito and I have spoken regularly since the end of the season," Epstein said. "We actually spoke today. We are going to sit down together and see if it's a fit.
"Clearly he would be at the top of anyone's list as available managers. That's probably true of any organization looking for a manager with experience and who is a proven winner. I think he has to figure out if this is right for him, and then as we continue our process and figure out where we are headed, we have to figure out the right fit in this organization, too."
Francona resigned as manager of the Red Sox after a 7-20 September collapse caused Boston to miss the playoffs by one game.
As Red Sox general manager, Epstein hired Francona in fall 2003. They won two World Series together and went to the playoffs six times.
The Cubs aren't the only team to show interest in Francona, however. WEEI Radio in Boston reported that Francona will be in St. Louis for an interview with the Cardinals, perhaps as soon as Friday.
Epstein also confirmed he would interview Pete Mackanin, the Philadelphia Phillies' bench coach. That talk is supposed to happen Friday. Epstein also has contacted Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux for an interview.
Epstein added that the process of hiring a manager will be done in a public way, with the Chicago media having a chance to interview every candidate. Epstein and his group will evaluate how the candidates interact with the media.
Epstein's list of managerial candidates understandably has some overlap with Boston's process.
The Red Sox also have been granted permission to interview Maddux, the older brother of former Cubs and Braves great Greg Maddux, who served as special assistant to former GM Jim Hendry since January 2010.
"Mike is in a key role for us and has had a prominent hand in our success the past few years," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Thursday. "But this is a unique opportunity to discuss a coveted position with two storied franchises, and we believe in allowing our people to pursue opportunities that they're interested in. It reflects well both on Mike and our organization that he's under consideration."
Mackanin, who will be the first candidate to come in after the Cubs fired Mike Quade on Wednesday, already has spoken to the Red Sox about their managerial vacancy.
The Cubs-Red Sox connection doesn't stop there. Dale Sveum, former Milwaukee Brewers manager and the team's current hitting coach, is on the Cubs' list. He interviewed with the Red Sox on Wednesday.
New Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that the Cubs and Red Sox lists aren't identical, however.
"We did a lot of work together right after Tito (Terry Francona) left, and since Theo's left, our list has probably changed a little bit, and I don't know what his list looks like," Cherington said. "This hire in Boston -- Theo mentioned this before -- the manager-general manager relationship is critical, and it's got to be one where you can develop a mutual respect. You can disagree and argue and wake up the next morning and go back to work together, so that personal relationship is key. And the person that I would develop that kind of good working relationship with may be different than the person that Theo would.
"So I don't think we're looking for the same person, even if some of the candidates we might consider could be similar.''
Major league sources indicated that in addition to the candidates mentioned, Red Sox coach DeMarlo Hale, Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, who played for the Cubs, would get a look.
Of course, the Red Sox also have received permission to interview Alomar.
Mackanin, who was born in Chicago and graduated from Brother Rice High School, is a former major league second baseman and longtime minor league coach and manager. He has served as bench coach in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and was interim manager of the Pirates and Reds.
Sveum played for eight teams in a 12-year MLB career. He has ties to Epstein since he was the Red Sox's third-base coach for two seasons, including the 2004 title year. He has served as Brewers bench coach and interim manager.
Mike Maddux, 50, also was a well-traveled major leaguer, pitching for 10 teams in a 15-year career. He was the Brewers' pitching coach for six seasons and has been in the same role with the Rangers the past three seasons.
In his first season, the staff ERA dropped nearly a full run from 2008, the second-largest drop in team history. The 4.38 ERA in 2009 was the lowest since 1993 (before the team moved into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington). It got better in 2010 as the Rangers sported a 3.93 ERA, fourth-best in the AL.
This past season, the Rangers had a 3.79 ERA, the seventh-lowest in franchise history and the lowest since a club-record 3.31 ERA in 1983. It was just the second time in club history that the Rangers finished in the top five in ERA in the AL in consecutive years.
In his introduction, Hoyer mentioned pitching as a high priority for the Cubs moving forward, giving Maddux a leg up. The Cubs reportedly also are hoping that Greg Maddux remains with the team in some capacity.
Information from ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine and ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett was used in this report.