For days, local and national prognosticators have suggested that Tom Ricketts made a huge mistake by extending the contract of Director of Player Development and International Scouting Oneri Fleita before a new General Manager was in place. Candidates for the GM job would be turned off by Ricketts inserting himself into the organization’s baseball operations, they said. Ken Rosenthal called Ricketts “dangerously naive.”
While I was willing to point out that the move might suggest the Cubs aren’t targeting GM candidates who will want total control, I also noted – for several reasons – that it was entirely possible that the move would have absolutely no impact on the GM search whatsoever. I thought the strong reactions from around the media were over the top, and, for the most part, wrong.
According to at least one anonymous GM candidate, those reactions were indeed flatly wrong.
“I have known Oneri for 20-plus years and he is as good as it gets,” the candidate told CSN’s Dave Kaplan. “He is bilingual, which is a huge plus in his role, he put the entire Latin American operation together and that includes a network of scouts that will go with him wherever he goes. In addition, the Cubs new 50-acre facility in the Dominican Republic is being put together under his direction. So to lose him would be a major blow to the entire organization.”
Kaplan suggests that the reaction he’s getting from around baseball is that executives think it’s ridiculous that the media is pointing to this extension as negatively impacting the GM search. Indeed, those sources – like the anonymous GM candidate – say it goes the other way: losing someone like Fleita could have hurt the search because he would have taken all of his Latin American connections and scouts with him.
Separately, Bruce Levine wrote up some more details on how the extension played out, and his sources agree that Fleita’s extension will not impact the GM search, in large part because the deal allows the next GM to reassign Fleita to a different role, if necessary.
So, at the end of the day, it sounds like the move was far from being a chink in Ricketts’ armor. It’s another feather in his cap.