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.