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Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs signed Oneri Fleita, the organization’s player development and international scouting director (a Jim Hendry favorite), to a four-year extension.

If this catches you by surprise, you’re not alone. The Cubs don’t have a general manager yet in place, and that guy was supposed to be hand-picking his organizational pieces. Sure, Chicago Cubs’ Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts has said he hopes the GM will keep on Fleita and Scouting Director Tim Wilken, but Ricketts sounded fairly clear last month that the decision would be the GM’s.

So what gives?

The rumored reason for the harried re-sign is that Fleita was receiving overtures from the Detroit Tigers, and, given the uncertain nature of his future, Fleita was considering a move. Rather than risk losing him, Ricketts decided to extend Fleita.

To me, this is yet another sign that Tom Ricketts sees himself as the Cubs’ “baseball president.” Fair or not, extending the farm director for four years before hiring the guy who is purportedly going to be in charge sends a message to that candidate: This is your club, but this is my organization.

That’s not a criticism of Ricketts, and, as I said, his hand was probably forced. But this kind of move makes it less likely that the Cubs are targeting someone like Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman, or Andrew Friedman, guys to whom Ricketts might have to offer complete control to woo.

As for the resigning, itself, I’m sure it’s a good move. We don’t always have a great deal of visibility to the inner workings of the farm development side of the organization (and you could take some legitimate shots at the track record under Fleita), but, if an organization like the Tigers wanted to pilfer Fleita, odds are good he’s doing something right.

The move is also important from at least two other perspectives: (1) international scouting and (2) institutional memory. If there’s one area where the Cubs have found almost unrivaled success in the last three years, it’s in international scouting – which Fleita has led. The inroads he’s laid in the Dominican Republic, in particular, are probably too valuable to lose. Secondly, it’s nice to hang onto someone who’s been a part of the organization on the minor league side for a number of years so that the collective knowledge of the Jim Hendry regime (if there’s one thing most believe Hendry did adequately, it’s scouting on the minor league level) is not lost in his departure.

  • Fishin Phil

    Thanks for the perspective Brett. I do like Fleita, but as you say, it probably now narrows the field of GM candidates.

  • Andrew

    This is probably me jumping to too many conclusions, but maybe the next guy advised that the Cubs extend Fleita. It’s a little far-fetched, but if Ricketts and the entire organization were able to keep the Jim Hendry firing a secret for a full month maybe they’re also keeping the hiring of the next guy (or woman – though they probably would’ve already announced a Ng hiring if they had done that sice she’s actually working for MLB instead of the Dodgers) under wraps until his season is over with his current team.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Ricketts has already come to an agreement with someone behind closed doors that cannot be made official until he is able to actually publicly come to an agreement with them. So… maybe once Ricketts started to hear rumblings of Fleita listening to other teams he contacted the next guy to make sure Fleita was a guy he wanted and then extended him.

    Maybe a little far-fetched, but probably not out of the realm of possibility.

    • MichiganGoat

      I’ve been thinking the same thing. I’ve always suspected Ricketts has been searching and vetting potential GM’s since last year and when Hendry was fired before the end of the season I felt even more confident about my assumption. Ricketts is a smart, calculating man and I’m sure he wouldnt make this move if he was 99% confident that the next GM would approve the move. I’m also not jumping on the thought that just because Ricketts made this move he wouldn’t considering hiring a President or give a big time GM a dual title.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not impossible, but, as you say, unlikely. I have it on very good authority that no interviews have yet taken place (but some are scheduled in the future).

      • Cheryl

        Ricketts takes his time on many things in terms of the cubs but this may have been one avenue where he had no choice but to act. I agree with MG that Ricketts wouldn’t have made the move unless he was 99% sure the next GM would approve. It would be interesting to start getting some interviews in now. He could start with those not tied up until the end of the season, refine the process with what he learns initially and wait on the bigger names until later. If he does interview Ng, that coud happen fairly early in the process.

  • hansman1982

    Ricketts has been talking with other members of MLB, correct? It could be that they are telling him that Fleita is one of the best in the biz.

    It could be that they have an informal agreement that if the GM is brought in and doesnt want him that he steps down to pursue offers with the Tigers.

    It could be that Ricketts is ruling with an Iron Fist (in the front office)

    My money is on a combo of 1 and 2

  • Toosh

    Looks like Beane and Forst might be coming to Chicago.

  • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

    I don’t see why, other than symbolically, a high powered gm candidate would mind having a (nice) piece of the organization already in place (Fleita). My money is not on secret communication with potential gm’s – it’s on the fact that Fleita is damned good and perhaps even a draw to potential gm’s.

  • LouCub

    If I were a betting man, i’d say Fleita, Wilken , Ari Kaplan and Maddog are the 4 pieces from the Hendry era to remain and who wouldn’t want Fleita, Wilken and Maddog on your staff?? There are lots of other positions to be filled on the GM’s immediate staff and thoughout the organization..Fleita and Wilken have especially done a great job in restocking the farm and setting up the future GM and the 2 are highly respected throughout baseball and they’re not clusterfu*!s like the Stockstill brothers who held those positions prior to them,,I think if anything it would make the job more appealing knowing that you got some solid people in the front office.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Good point, to think a GM could bring in an entire new staff on all levels and maintain some semblance of organizational continuity is unrealistic.  After an amazing draft and international signings Fleita and Wilkens are highly regarded and any GM would appreciate having them in place when he/she takes over.  There is still 100’s of jobs/positions for the new GM to influence/hire and having the heads of our amateur organization in place will only allow a new GM to focus on free agency, trades, and other on-field needs.

      • CubFan Paul

        ..yea but what if that “new GM” whats to be the President/Director of Baseball Ops and wants a GM under him?

        good move now, but Ricketts may scare the really good candidates away with his own ambitions..

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          I believe that Ricketts made this move not out of his own ambitions, but out of whats best for the team.  He’s smart enough to not let his own ego get in the way of getting the best GM available, and there are many titles Ricketts could assume or assign to the new GM, I’m just not that worried about Ricketts getting in the way of the success of this team.

          • CubFan Paul

            i am MG

            from mlbtraderumors – ESPN.com’s Buster Olney has an interesting take on the Cubs’ extension of player personnel director Oneri Fleita. The move means that the incoming general manager will not be allowed to pick his own executive in that spot. Olney says it’s hard to imagine that high-profile GM candidates like Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman, or Billy Beane would likely want to fill that position themselves.

            Olney’s link is an insider page so we can’t get the whole article, which sucks, but Ricketts making decisions now without a knowledgeable “baseball man” in place/under contract isn’t good, in my opinion

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              So, like, Buster just wrote what I wrote, but three hours later?

              • CubFan Paul

                ..maybe Buster reads BN?

  • awesome

    What next? a 3 year extension for Quade. Bush as GM?

  • LouCub

    some of you guys are getting too worked up over this..Oneri is highly thought of and the work he’s done for the Cubs internationally with prospects the last few seasons is unmatched by any ohter organization..Seeing that Tim Wilken got to spend whatever he needed to sign his picks, i’d doubt he’s going anywhere either…That leaves the new GM like 15 positions in the front office…if the guy was crap it’s one thing Oneri is solid

  • LouCub

    awesome…Quade will be elsewhere..book it

  • Steve

    Well, if the Tigers want him…better hurry and extend him. After all, it can’t be allowed to see a front office member of the worst managed team in baseball het away from us. Yeah, those Tigers. Those JUGGERNAUTS. Ummmm, excuse me…what exactly have the Tigers done lately? If they want to pluck another rotten egg out of the Cub’s basket: let them. I don’t care what “good things” he has done. The article is right. Ricketts automatically removes several industry stalwarts from contention. Nobody wants to be micro-managed. Clean house. Maddux? Thank you for your service, and enjoy your retire. Too many negatives, and not enough winning seasons under Hendry, and EVERYONE within his staff. This is not good at all…

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  • pfk

    Steve Rosenberg went on a rampage about this and I think he is full of sh**. Ricketts made the correct move. Fleita is a talent and might have jumped ship, so he kept him on board. That in now way affects the new GM. If the new GM doesn’t want him Fleita can be released and the Cubs will owe him. However, it is more likely that another team will pick him up and the Cubs would either be off the hook or have a fairly small amount to pay. It was a good insurance protection move on the part of Ricketts.

    • RoughRiider

      Does anyone really care what Rosenberg writes. He’s a contrarian and eternal pessimist. In fact if you look up pessimist in the dictionary it has a picture of Rosenberg.

      • pfk

        I agree. He’s a reincarnation of Jay Mariotti, who I couldn’t stand.

         

        • Jeff

          I think he’s worse than Mariotti.  I had to stop reading after the first 45 mentions of “fan boy owner”.   I think that guy has some deep rooted jealousy issues.  It’s a wonder anyone would publish his form of “subjective journalism”.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Read it. Ignored it. Felt better for it.

  • funkster

    You guys mean Steve Rosenbloom I assume? Refused to read it..he’s a complete asshat. Another one who without a doubt refuses to ever say or write anything positive about the Cubs.

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