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A few weeks ago, when Chicago Cubs Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts took the bold step of extending VP of Player Personnel/International Scouting Director Oneri Fleita before a new general manager was in place, people called Ricketts naive. Foolish. Risky.

I didn’t share those sentiments, but it did get me wondering what was coming next. If Ricketts was comfortable making a decision on Fleita without the input from the next GM, perhaps he’d be comfortable doing the same with respect to Scouting Director Tim Wilken. So, when word broke a couple weeks ago that Ricketts would be meeting with Wilken this past weekend, it was fair to assume that an extension was forthcoming for Wilken, as well. After all, like Fleita, Wilken is universally respected, is considered a crucial part of the Cubs’ growing farm system, is under contract for one more year, and has already received a public endorsement from Ricketts.

Well, the two met this weekend, and sure enough, Wilken … didn’t get an extension.

Um, ok.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a particularly strong reaction to Wilken not being extended. He remains under contract for 2012, and, even if I were convinced that Wilken can help this organization, I like the idea of leaving open the possibility that the next GM may want to bring in a number of “his guys,” which could include a new scouting director.

But, given the parralels of Fleita and Wilken, I remain surprised that the extension didn’t come down for Wilken. And, despite what he says, I would imagine Wilken was surprised, too.

“We knew it as far as the contract, but we talked for an hour and a half, had a real good meeting,” Wilken said of the meeting. “Just like he did in the draft, he was very supportive. He’s a good man.”

Bruce Levine’s source says Wilken was told he was a valuable part of the organization, but that Ricketts did not want to make any additional executive decisions until the new GM is in place.

But, if that’s the case, why did Ricketts extend Fleita?

The difference in the two situations, as near as I can figure, is either that Wilken is not considered as valuable to the Cubs in this transition period, or, more likely, the Cubs aren’t being pushed by another suitor in the same way that they were with Fleita. Recall, the Detroit Tigers were offering Fleita a multiple-year deal to jump ship before Ricketts locked him down. In other words, Ricketts did not want to make a decision about any of the team’s executives – be it Fleita, Wilken, or someone else – but his hand was forced with respect to Fleita. So Ricketts made a single exception.

So, what does this mean for Wilken’s future? As I said, he remains under contract, and we’ve not yet heard of any overtures from other organizations. It’s entirely possible that there’s nothing to glean from this meeting, and it only seems that there should be something because we’re viewing it through the lens of the Fleita extension. If so, the new GM will review the organization and will make a decision about allowing Wilken to fulfill his contract (and perhaps then make his own decision about an extension).

It is, however, also possible – if, perhaps, unlikely – that this is one of those “votes of no confidence.” By extending Fleita, effectively telling the next GM, “I don’t care what you do with anyone else, but we’re keeping this guy,” and then not extending Wilken under very similar circumstances, Ricketts could be communicating two things: (1) he likes Wilken, but doesn’t “like him, like him,” and is unwilling to go to bat for him in the same way as he was for Fleita; and (2) he will not stand in the way of the next GM if that guy wants to replace Wilken.

Whatever the explanation, I’m pretty ambivalent about the outcome. If Wilken stays, great. If Wilken is replaced by the new GM’s guy (assuming I am happy with the GM hire), great. I just hope that this isn’t a matter of Ricketts kowtowing to the hataz who said he’d overstepped his bounds by extending Fleita.

  • TWC

    “Hataz”?  Really?  You have to do that?  *sigh*  What is this site coming to?

    • Fishin Phil

      We are becoming hip and cool.  Is that what the kids are saying these days?

      • Ian Afterbirth

        If we’re using “hataz” you can guarantee it isn’t hip anymore.

    • Brett

      Using “hataz” in the same sentence as kowtowing was an intentional contrast. I use “hataz” to make a point about how stupid those “hataz” might be. Get on board.

      • CubFan Paul

        i think he absolutely is kowtowing to the hataz or he would of extended Wilkens to a contract with out clauses to protect him and the organization ..Ricketts hasn’t spoke publicly about Fleita’s extension more than likely because of what he said in the Hendry press conference and the national reaction from his peers & media

        • JulioZuleta

          The reaction in the industry was that it was a good move. The only doubters were uninformed baseball writers who made a knee jerk reaction in an attempt to pile on Ricketts. After the dust settled, most people in baseball said losing Fleita would have hurt Ricketts in his attempt to get one of the big names in here.

        • TWC

          Paul, methinks you’re one of the hataz, eh?

          • CubFan Paul

            im not a hata, just not a believer of Ricketts yet ..people have made excuses for him on why he let the product on the field erode (when he didnt have to) but i choose to call it as I see it: He knew mega millions were coming off the books this winter so he sat back for two years, smiled, shook hands, kissed babies, endorsed hendry (when he knew along Hendry would be his fall guy this year), went cheap on the draft last year (so why kiss his ass this year?), and now because he’s “supposedly learned” the baseball side of the business we’re suppose to follow him off a cliff? not me ..Cricketts true colors to a certain extent will show this offseason (new GM/President, CJ Wilson & Fielder, soriano and Big Z buyouts)

            so either i’ll be a full blown Hata pullin my hair out February 1st or I’ll still be skeptical of Ricketts/El Cheapo or I’ll be happy because I’m a fan & supposedly Ricketts is too

            • JulioZuleta

              When he took over this team, this team was an absolute mess, now its worse. Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better. In my opinion we haven’t hit rock bottom yet. But, I do like a lot of thigns he’s done. Yeah, he has taken some out of the major league payroll, but he hasn’t been stuffing his pockets with it. He has been improving facilites, spending on international free agents, the draft this year… I think he has a solid long term plan and unfortunately we are still some time away from the prize, but I like that he’s making changes and trying to modernize this ancient franchise with new facilities, new mindset (player development, statistical analysis). The old way sure as hell didn’t, when we would sign big names way past their primes (think John Travolta in Wild Hogs)

              • CubFan Paul

                ..”excuses” that i mentioned. ha!

            • hansman1982

              I agree with Julio, I began to doubt him until the draft signings came in – Tom is in this thing for the long haul and I think he understood that it would hurt the organization more in the long term if they made a real push for contention in the past couple of years due to the contracts that would be required.

              He is going to make mistakes but I think he has done a good job if you think that he is looking long-term for the Cubs

            • Jeff

              I thought you were already a full blown hata, Paul.  I can’t wait for February 1st to see the real hating begin.

      • JulioZuleta

        You really hit to all fields as the say Brett. I feel the same way as you though. I don’t think this year’s draft was as much the work of Wilken as it was Ricketts’ willingness to make it rain on them 18 year old boys (awkward image. but since we’re using “hataz” I should show my hip side too). Anyways I digress, anyone would have picked Dunston in the 11th, Maples in the 14th, Jensen in the 26th (?) Urban in the 41st Shoulders in the 25th…If they knew they would be given the resources to sign them. We won’t know the genius of scouting in the draft for a few years; as of right now, he made a bunch of no-brainer type picks because he had a blank checkbook at his disposal.

      • TWC

        I like this site because your posts are short and intentionally contrasting.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          “Clever girl.”

  • Wilbur

    When you have to explain “Using “hataz” in the same sentence as kowtowing was an intentional contrast. I use “hataz” to make a point about how stupid those “hataz” might be. Get on board.” the humor may not be as obvious to the readers as the writer.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Wilbur.

      But, sometimes when you have to explain that the humor may not be as obvious to the readers as the writer, the point may not be as obvious to the writer as the commenter.

  • Steve

    Brett, in my opinion all the Fleita extension meant was that Rickketts wants him around for the development of the Dominican Republic academy. This has all been blown out of proportion. But, then again, when have the Cubs ever done anything with quiet dignity and grace?

  • Steve

    Um, Hendry was, indeed, his OWN fall guy. By viewing him as Tom’s scapegoat, you automatically are saying he was a good GM, and was fired to mask mistakes by ownership, i.e.”somebody has to be blamed for this mess”. Jim was let go because the team didn’t win enough games, with the rosters he built…a direct reflection of his performance. He was nobody’s fall guy. He cost himself his own job.

    • CubFan Paul

      im not saying or did say Hendry was a good GM but when you have an aging roster and a new Owner (no names) cuts your salary two years in a row, the product on the field will decline ..the season before the new owner was the same where Hendry had a “tight cap” and could only add contracts by replacing contracts of the same value. That makes it VERY hard to field a competitive team when your roster is aging (Ramy, Sori, Z, Demp etc..) and you can’t add quality pieces ..Hendry added some good pieces (wood for cheap, Byrd for cheap, Garza for prospects) but in the 2nd largest Market in the National League payroll shouldn’t be an issue but for Hendry it has been for at least 3 seasons (Wells & Cashner go down in week 1 and he get Looper, Davis, Lopez & Ortiz)

      • Toosh

        The ‘aging” roster was put together by Hendry. The reason it didn’t improve or get younger was that the farm system, also put together by Hendry, couldn’t supply enough players who could produce at the Major League level.

        • CubFan Paul

          the farm system was/still is pathetic because of a LACK of spending on it (ask Wilken about that, he admits it) ..Ricketts is changing that, Hendry has nothing to do with the previous owner’s spending on the farm and he had to work with who Wilkens drafted with only a $2 dollar bill

          Ricketts supporters/Hendry hatas can’t have it both ways

  • Vince

    A new general manager will wait untill the 2012 season is over to evaluate the entire makeup of the franchise. This would include the continuation of keeping Quade through the 2012 season. It would be impossible for a new GM to know the team and it’s makeup coming in “cold”. Be prepared for another long season next year until he can get a handle on everything.

    • Ron Swanson

      Or she

    • CubFan Paul

      Vince do you have an example of a GM coming in and only evaluating? Nothing comes to mind on my end.. it’ll will probably be the exact opposite of your comment

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        GMs do tend to come in and make a bunch of moves right off the bat. Whether that’s wise or not, I can’t say. But I suspect they know their time to “prove” themselves is short, so they act quickly. Contrast that with Ricketts – who owns the team, and could afford to take his time.

      • JulioZuleta

        So negative, Paul, way beyond the point of telling it like it is.

  • Steve

    And I wonder why new ownership wouldn’t let Hendry spend? Soriano??? I mean, hey, when he paid big, it always seemed to work out. Consider my mind, boggled. Or…maybe…he was evaluated on his track record, and Ol’ Tommy wasn’t going to watch another 8 year contract, to a player in his 30s, saddle the franchise for even longer. I would assume that Hendry would have been allowed to continue to spend, if his deals actually worked out. I don’t know. Just thinking out loud here…

    • CubFan Paul

      your thoughts are wrong on most accounts, because of a lack of facts/information about the payroll situation

  • Steve

    And…LOL @ Byrd being cheap. Affordable in the Chicago market? Yes.”Cheap”, by anyone’s idea of value for dollars spent? Not even close.

    • CubFan Paul

      3years/$15million is Super Cheap for a starting Center Fielder anywhere & kudos to Hendry for backloading it to help the 2010 & 2011 payroll & saving the $6.5million for a year will the payroll obligations drop considerably

      2010: $3
      2011: $5.5
      2012: $6.5

      • Toosh

        With the resources at his disposal, and the payroll he had to work with, Hendry could hardly have done a worse job of building a Major League roster. 1 game over .500? Unacceptable. His thought process seemed to be to max out the payroll every season rather than getting good players.

  • Steve

    And the true VALUE of the contract? Nada. What you are getting from your “super cheap” player, is “super cheap” play. If we look at things your way, why don’t the Cubs just call up a kid, and pay him major league minimum? Wow. You could call him “super-duper cheap”, or “ultra-cheap”? I could shit in a bucket, put it in center field, give it to you for free…and all you have in a cheap bucket of shit. You get what you pay for. In fact, due to the fact that Bryd has played VERY AVERAGE BASEBALL, to be generous…I’d argue that he is, in fact, a very EXPENSIVE part of the team, in terms of value. He is only “super cheap”, if you are getting similar production to much higher paid players at his position. The Cubs aren’t. FFS…

    • CubFan Paul

      ..i never proclaimed Byrd an AllStar & i’m quite sure the cubs weren’t when they signed him ..what does “FFS” stand for?

      2010: .293/.346/.429.775 ..39doubles, 12HRs, 66RBI, 249total bases

      2011: .283/.332/.399/.730 ..i think your overreacting to a “down” year from a solid player

      • Toosh

        10 years in the Majors. Zero playoff appearances. He’s a roster-filler. Enough said.

      • Jeff

        Why did you stop filling in the 2011 stat line Paul?  I would assume because it’s the real problem with Byrd and it’s horrible for an every day player who has been in the middle of the lineup all season.

        • CubFan Paul

          because he took a Fastball to the cheek, missed exactly 6weeks of games and deserves a pass, thats why ..there’s no reason to think he cant rebound next year, and being the professional he is I’m quite sure he’ll do what’s necessary this offseason to prove the ‘jump the sharkers’ wrong

          Jackson in CF in 2012
          Byrd in LF or RF (assuming Ricketts trades or buys out Soriano’s deal as reported by Kaplan)
          & a question mark in the 3d OF spot until we get a new GM & see his offseason plan to rebuild

          • Jeff

            He had 11 rbi’s in two months before the injury.  If anything, he’s been better since he got hurt.

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

        Byrd 2011: 21-2B, 8-HR, 32-RBI

        The real eye opener is is AVG with RISP: 2010-.282, 2011-.197

        He has had a significantly drop in offensive production, his defense is average but being this poor offensively really shows how much he declined this year and has been a major liability this year. My greatest concern about him and Pena is how poorly they hit w/RISP. He may bounce back next year but he shouldn’t be counted on offensively.

    • CubFan Paul

      i figured out FFS ..i think: for f**k sake? funny ..i dont know the geek websites that show defensive stats/awesomeness but im willing to bet Byrd grades above average defensively, but if not it’s still a $15million contract

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

        The best one is fangraphs.com, and they really explain their advanced sabermetrics, baseball-reference.com is another great site.

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