Is Scouting Director Tim Wilken About to Get An Extension, Too?

This weekend, Chicago Cubs’ Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts took the bold step of extending the contract of the Cubs’ Director of Player Development, Oneri Fleita, for four years, despite the team’s ongoing General Manager search. The step, of course, was bold because that is a position you would think a GM would expect to fill on his own.

Would Ricketts take an even bolder step and extend the Cubs’ Scouting Director, Tim Wilken, too?

Sources tell Bruce Levine that Ricketts will be meeting with Wilken over the weekend of September 16 to discuss the state of the Cubs’ farm system and Wilken’s current contract, which takes him through 2012. Given what just happened with Fleita, and given Wilken’s standing within baseball (read: other teams would gladly hire him), it’s fair to wonder whether Ricketts will offer Wilken an extension as an enticement to pass up other opportunities.

If Ricketts did so, he would have filled two of the most important positions in the new GM’s regime before the new GM was even hired. It would be even more evidence that the Cubs don’t believe they can actually land an Epstein/Cashman/Friedman type.

But, you know…

A part of me does wonder whether these kind of moves aren’t as bold or suggestive as I think. Consider this: we fully expect the Cubs to dump Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano this Winter, eating tens of millions of dollars in the process. Would it really be so shocking for Ricketts to be willing to eat these personnel extensions, too, if the new GM wants to bring in his own guys?

I actually think the answer is yes, despite the apparent bent of my rhetorical question. Sure, the financial cost would be relatively low – I have hard time imagining that Fleita and Wilken, combined, make more than $1 million per year. But the personal cost would be quite high. What kind of name do you make for yourself when you sign guys – expressly so they don’t take opportunities with other clubs – and then can them a couple months later, knowing all the while that it was how you expected things to play out?

As cold and calculating as Ricketts might be (and that’s a compliment), I don’t think even he wants to start out in baseball with that reputation – it remains a “people” business.

Then again, Levine notes that Fleita’s deal – and whatever deal Wilken might get – will be structured to include flexibility (including healthy buyouts), should the Cubs want to make a change before Fleita’s four years are up. So maybe Ricketts can have it both ways.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

18 responses to “Is Scouting Director Tim Wilken About to Get An Extension, Too?”

  1. Mike Foster

    Cold is one thing, shrewd is another. For a small cost he’s keeping options open. I like shrewd.

  2. Jeff

    I think signing Wilken to an extension would send up a completely different message than the Fleita signing did.  Fleita is integral to the Dominican project, he leads one of the biggest international scouting departments in baseball, and has been working with many of these countries to scout and develop players since 95.  It always seemed to me that Wilken was the one working closely with Hendry, while Fleita was off in South America or Korea or somewhere working to sign some more hard to pronounce prospects.  I think the track record and the current projects that the team has so much money and time sunk into involve Fleita too much for them to let him walk.  I think Wilken is the more easily replaced guy, and besides, Brett is right.  If Ricketts signs a new gm and then decides he wants someone other than Fleita running international scouting, it won’t be too hard to let Fleita go, especially if they make that decision right after the season ends and give him plenty of time to revisit Detroit and other places that were showing interest.

  3. RoughRiider

    I would think that if Wilkin is under contract for 2012 it’s a non issue. Of the 2 I would prefer that Wilkin is retained. Both Wilkin and Fleita have done a terrific job. If it didn’t work out with the new GM they could be assigned other duties and still be paid. Vice President in charge of (insert title here).

  4. LouCub

    i find it hard to believe that given the money and green light that Ricketts gave Wilken over the last draft that Wilken is going anywhere and since he’s highly respected, I believe the new GM would be foolish not to keep him, especially with the system on the brink of becoming highly productive.It is a big position but like I said there are at least 25-30 more immediate positions that the GM needs to fill so 1 or 2 hires especially considering who they are won’t be a deal breaker..Do you guys actually think that Brian Cashman has 100% say in who’s in the Yankee hiearchy??? Did Theo Epstein replace every single person in the BoSox front office upon taking over?? Hell Andrew Friedman has been getting babysat by Gerry Hunsicker since day 1…Some of you guys are blowing this out of proportion,,,If Ricketts extends, Bush, Quade, Littlefield, Kravec , Gary Hughes etc that’s one thing..2 top guys who gotr the system going up the charts is a no brainer.

  5. MichiganGoat

    I’m in agreement that signing Fleita and Wilkens does not directly mean that Ricketts isn’t considering the premier GM names.  Fleita and Wilkens are highly respected and desired by multiple teams and maybe desired by one of the prospective GMs. Regardless I think this is the right organizational decision and if a new GM wants to bring in other people that move can still be made without catastrophic consequences.

    1. hansman1982

      MG, its posters like you that have kept me here – thoughtful, reasoned and not immediately Bashing every move that Ricketts makes.

      I agree with you that this means very little in terms of who Ricketts will hire/will be able to hire…

      This may have been more of a message sent to the prospects (that after Hendry was fired were upset that he was let go after negotiating with them) that the Org will have some continuity going forward.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Shucks, thanks.

  6. pfk

    I think he should indeed sign Wilken. Its nothing more than an insurance policy. This way if the new GM likes them they are on board. If not, they are let go with a buyout and will clearly catch on with another club. I don’t think its unethical at all and baseball people will totally relate to Ricketts’ predicament. He’s caught in a position of not having a new GM yet and 2 important contracts were coming up.

    1. Cheryl

      Agree he should be resigned. Wilken could be given a bonus because of this year’s work and told that they have every intention of extending his contract after the new GM is hired. Still, I’d go ahead and sign him and extend his contract.like pfk says if holding off a month or two causes a problem..

  7. NL_Cubs

    I can’t believe Ricketts would sign Fleita (and possibly Wilkens to follow) without talking with other owners and MLB execs and not understanding the risk/reward impact of such a decision prior to seating a GM.

    Good businessmen, particularly in a small, tight community such as MLB just don’t operate that way IMO.

  8. Why extending Oneri Fleita and possibly Tim Wilken's contract doesn't matter

    [...] A part of me does wonder whether these kind of moves aren’t as bold or suggestive as I think. Consider this: we fully expect the Cubs to dump Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano this Winter, eating tens of millions of dollars in the process. Would it really be so shocking for Ricketts to be willing to eat these personnel extensions, too, if the new GM wants to bring in his own guys? — Bleacher Nation [...]