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Wow.

According to Bruce Miles, the Chicago Cubs will be parting ways with Oneri Fleita, a long-time member of the front office who had headed up the Cubs’ farm system for many years. His current title is (was?) VP of Player Personel, which reflected his standing as the number two man in the farm department behind Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod. Fleita has been with the Cubs for more than 15 years, and has been near the top of the player development heap since 2000.

Fleita’s departure would be something of a surprise given the fact that he was handed an extension just last September by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts in order to persuade Fleita to say no to reported overtures from the Tigers. On the other hand, the extension, itself, was something of a surprise, because Ricketts gave it to Fleita before Theo Epstein and crew had even been interviewed, much less hired. Even if Fleita’s extended time in Chicago was just one year, I’m sure his presence helped with the transition.

Losing Fleita would certainly sting – he’s considered one of the top executives dealing with Latin America, and had been a big part of the Cubs’ development efforts in the Dominican Republic, among other places – but it’s possible this is an expected transition. Perhaps Fleita is getting the opportunity to take on a bigger and better job in another organization, and the Cubs are saying, “go forth and prosper.” Or perhaps Theo decided that the Cubs’ player development record over the past decade has been less than stellar, and it was time to move on. We’ll just have to wait and see.

There will be a great many more details on this – possibly as soon as later today. Before freaking out, remember that there were widespread false rumors of Randy Bush being axed from the front office last year.

The front office has been reshuffled in the last week, with Jaron Madison being hired away from the Padres as the Cubs’ new Scouting Director, and Tim Wilken being promoted to a Special Assistant role.

UPDATE: The Cubs have confirmed the separation, and there will be more on it later.

UPDATE 2: Other folks are getting the ax/being reassigned today. I’ll have the full rundown later, but stats guru Ari Kaplan has been re-assigned into a consulting role, and Chuck Wasserstrom – the Cubs’ long-time Manager of Baseball Information – has been canned. The position is being eliminated, which tells me it was pretty old school.

  • TWC

    Rumor has it that Theo just got a little too creeped out by having this Lurch lookalike shambling around grunting, “You rang?”

  • Deer

    It all coulda started when he didn’t want to sing his school’s “fight song” on Day 1

  • Deez

    House needs to be cleaned “thoroughly.” What has the Cubs system produced in the last 15 years!?
    Definitely wish him well, but nice knowing you.

    • Cyranojoe

      Um, pretty sure more postseason appearances than in the previous 30. Sound about right?

  • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

    How many Cubs farm system products came up ready to produce in the past few years? The only ones I can think of are Soto and Castro. It’s always impressed me how young players from other systems seem far more fundamentally grounded than those of the Cubs. I’d have to lay the blame on the instruction that goes on in the farm system, and the buck stops with Fleita.

    • OCCubFan

      It does seem that players coming up through the Cubs’ farm system lack in fundamentals. As just one example, how come Patterson and Pie never learned to bunt in the minors? Having said that, I do not know who is to blame and, in particular, whether Flieta should share some of the blame.

  • Luke D

    Fleita sucks. This was a good move.

    • Cedlandrum

      In some areas he wasn’t good, but a lot of the inroads we have made and the improvements in the Dominican are a direct result of his work.

    • Chris

      Fleita was one of the better examples of guys Hendry/MacPhail hired in their tenure with the Cubs. Theo is clearly better at collecting talent in th front office, but I also think he’s been given much more control and money to get that done.

  • Chris

    Fleita did have a significant impact in bringing in the first real successful waive of Latin American players to the Cubs organization. Guys like Zambrano, Marmol, Welington Castillo, Dolis, Cabrera, Juan Cruz, etc. While this FO is so much more brain-heavy, Hendry did work to expand the scouting and player development staff of the Cubs in his tenure. Theo’s is much more impressive, but Hendry did push to expand the staff, and Fleita was one of the more successful hires. My guess is he’s shown that his philosophy is not aligned with Theo/Jed’s, so why keep a guy around if he doesn’t want to be here. But I don’t believe that Fleita was part of the “problem” with the previous regime. It will be very interesting to see what the FO tells us about this move. Other than philosophical differences, or improper conduct of some sort, I can’t see a reason to fire the guy, especially after he just received an extension.

    • Chris

      Forgot to name the most impressive guy he helped develop… Starlin Castro…

    • Cyranojoe

      Agreed.

  • Mrcub1958

    Brett, have to agree with Deez on this one.
    To eliminate any sting, prescription reads to review draft pick success since 2000.
    Ahhh…better now.

    • Chris

      If the draft is what you’re faulting, then Wilken is the guy that should have been fired.

    • AB

      Fleita was not in charge of the drafts then. That was Jim Stocksill.

      • Steve

        Ahhhhh!!!! You said the word!!!! You said the word!!!!!!!!! ( John Stocksill) Ahhhh!!!!!!

    • AB

      Also teams have different areas for scouting, and if you are scouting Latin America or a specific region I’m guessing you are usually not involved in player development or amateur scouting of high school and college players in the United States.

      • Scotti

        Fleita never lost his role in the DR after he was promoted to Director.

  • ssckelley

    I think you look no further than the lack of talent at AAA & AA to see why this move was made.

  • BeyondFukudome

    I’m sure it’s philosophical differences. Fleita is a Platonist, while theo is clearly a Nietzschean (“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”).

    • Frank

      Gotta love the philosophical references . . . although I think maybe, having worked in the Cubs farm system under Hendry, Fleita would be Kierkegaardian. He probably had to read “Fear and Trembling” or “Sickness unto Death” just to get by.

      • BeyondFukudome

        Hendry ==> Schopenhauer (“All life is suffering.”)

        • Frank

          Yes–and Cubs fans? Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics.

    • ptbnl

      Fleita believes Pitt the Elder was the greatest British Prime Minister while Theo votes for Lord Palmerston.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I get that reference!

  • MikeL

    This is purely speculation Brett, but not sure if you heard anything about this name:

    @CubsDen

    Name to watch: #Cubs were very interested in bringing over #RedSox Director of Player Personnel David Finley when Theo was hired

    • Scotti

      Mike, a part of the Theo “trade” was that we would stop raiding their FO for a couple of years. Unless David Finley is on the outs with Boston (why would he be) or there is another trade (who trades FO personnel like this) I don’t see that happening… There is probably video of Fleita with a goat or something that is about to surface.

      • MichiganGoat

        I have never been around with Fleita

        • Scotti

          You know you want him. Admit it.

    • Leroy K.

      Theo: Hey Boston, we’ll trade you 20 of our guys for 20 of your guys!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, his name has come up over the past year for a variety of positions. I’m sure they’re going to explore (or have already) a bunch of former contacts.

  • Brandon – AA Correspondent

    Oneri Fleita is going to be missed. He was a regular visitor to Smokies park, and I enjoyed the opportunity to listen to him, and speak with him as well. It’s easy to try and find a scapegoat. That being said, if the Cubs are going to be a winner, we need to draft and develop winning players, and not organizational filler. I bet Oneri won’t be out of a job long. But, clearly, Theo and Co. are definately cleanign house of anyone who has not been hand picked by him. Can’t say I blame him. Again, Oneri Fleita is a class guy and I feel will be an asset to another organization and I wish him well.

    • Eric

      Well they are keeping some ppl not hand picked by them. It’s obvious they like Tim Wilken and I don’t blame them. I think he’s one of the best.

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  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Brett,
    so are there any big time “free agent” FO executives whose contracts are up after this season that the cubs might be interested in? Or any big time scouts that the cubs could steal since they have some people coming off the books?

  • Deez

    All of our Latin Players have been “flame outs” too!
    No sustained success. No body of work. Always a year here or there!
    Flash in the pan then poof!
    It was more of organizational failure. Player development, Drafting, & Selection.
    You can’t point it at Fleita, Hendry, or Hughes.
    It’s all of the above.

    • Chris

      Looking at the last 25 years of organizational mismanagement by the Cubs, it’s exciting to see the focus being paid to hiring smart baseball minds. But I do want to say that, IMO, Hendry and his hires took the Cubs from point A to point B (Thank you Jerry Krause). Point A was a skeleton crew front office staff with very little scouting and no attention paid to statistical analysis. Hendry pushed to hire more baseball minds. While he always sided with old-school scouting, he left the organization way better than it was when he was hired. While it still wasn’t up to today’s standards of a good FO, I have to give him credit for trying to build out the staff. Having said that, I think that Theo is doing a wonderful job of structuring an actual staff of qualified baseball minds, and I look forward to the many future hirings he’s planning on adding to the mix.

    • Kyle

      Carlos Zambrano is waving at you.

      • BeyondFukudome

        Sh*t! What’s he waving?

        • Frank

          A Gatorade bottle and a baseball bat?

  • Joe

    Oneri wasnt the only one that bit the dust today.

  • North Side Irish

    Wow…they are just gutting the front office today. Didn’t they just hire Ari Kaplan? Now he’s been fired and re-hired as a consultant. I guess the rebuild stretches all the way to the FO.

    • Chris

      Ricketts hired Kaplan last year. Not a Theo hire.

      • North Side Irish

        Never said he was a Theo hire. I looked and he was hired in 2010…really didn’t think he’d been here that long. For some reason I thought he was brought in last off-season, but I may have been thinking of Shiraz Rehman.

  • Nmints

    Off-topic but Melky Cabrera had been suspended for 50 games for using testosterone. Any chance they could be interested in Soriano?

    • Cryinmybluecoolaid

      I beleive Soriano already said no about being traded to SF.

    • Cyranojoe

      Holy crow. That’s gotta sting.

      Be nice if they’d go for Sori, and Sori would go for them. He wants a team with sustained success for this year and next year, the Giants would be a good place to go.

  • Jeff1969

    Watching Theo & Co. go about their business, it seems to me that anythng is possible, and as we watch Castro struggle with nearly every aspect of the game, it feels like he could very well be shipped out of town this offseason.

    • Tim

      no way will that happen

      • anotherjp

        You don’t think the man that shipped Nomar out of Boston wouldn’t send Castro packing? If the D-backs were to put a combo of Bauer, Skaggs, Bradley on the table I think Theo would give it serious consideration… I know I would.

        • Tim

          My boss’s nephew is good friends with nomars brother. and he says it was time for nomar to go. castro is in a year in which he is changing his approach to his entire game, and is still putting up decent numbers. Starlin Castro is a future superstar. there is no way he gets traded for any unproven players. now if the dbacks include a guy like upton in a deal including those 3 players, then yes i think jedstein will pull the trigger, but again theres no way the dbacks put together that kind of package for starlin

          • anotherjp

            Just for the record I don’t think the Cubs would seriously consider moving Castro unless another team approached them with an offer. But since he’s eligible for arbitration next year he’ll have to rebound to justify keeping him to build around. The Cubs will have plenty of good middle infielders available in the next several years and I get the feeling Theo isn’t entirely sold on him as an untouchable commodity.

          • Tommy

            Well, my dad’s sister’s brother’s 2nd cousin knows the mailman of the mother of the brother of a guy that sat next to Nomar in high school, and he said that Nomar had another good 5 to 10 years left in Boston and he didn’t know where that trade came from.

            No lie.

    • Dave

      Not every player on the team needs to fit Theo’s and Jed’s mold of what they desire in a player. If they can’t fit a taelnted young player like Castro on their team then I question their plans.
      Could some of Castro’s probelms this season have anything to do with the fact he is on a team that is awful.

    • Drew7

      “…as we watch Castro struggle with nearly every aspect of the game”

      This could be the single biggest over-statement of the year

      • J R

        Yeah, Castro’s BA is down but he continues to progress with his power and dfence (which is the most important thing), and people think he needs to go. I don’t get it.. The guy had a ton going on in the offseason last year.. I am calling a HUGE year next year from Castro. Huge..

  • RoughRiider

    The Ides of August are upon us.

  • Spriggs

    Ring out the old, Ring in the new!

  • Dumpgobbler

    My only problem with the huge cull is timing. Shouldn’t this have happened when Theo and company first came? Now its almost like we lost a year of the new “Cubs way” rebuilding effort.

    • Chris

      I think they were trying to evaluate people and what roles they would be in for the future. Even Theo commented that Fleita and he looked for a role to best use his strengths, but that it would be too much of a step down for him. I think the timing of this hasn’t hurt the organization at all, especially since they were paying his contract regardless. They debriefed Fleita of all the knowledge he could offer and it came to a point where Theo knew they didn’t need his insight any further. He probably did him a solid by releasing him now so that he could catch on with another team before the offseason, if he so chooses. Or he can continue to draw a Cubs paycheck and go work for Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus.

  • cubsin

    No, this was good timing. Theo and company had time to evaluate all of the holdovers, and a level of continuity was maintained during the transition. Those who were let go will now have plenty of time to find a new position with another team.

  • J R

    I think the new regime is realizing how much crap they have in the system, and think; If you were here for that crapshow of drafting and developing you are gone or sent to a b.s. position.

  • Yohler

    Could this have to do with the lesser amounts clubs can now spend on international signings? Maybe this is a shift in focus for them… why spend as much time and effort on guys they will be either signing for far less or not signing at all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Eh. Argument could go the other way – with less money to spend, finding diamonds in the rough and/or having good relationships with kids down there is even more important.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    One of the hallmarks of the Cubs player development operation under Fleita was a fair amount of patience. With a few exceptions (notably Starlin Castro), players, particularly young players, were moved up the system at a fairly predictable and methodical rate regardless of their performance.

    For example, take a look at second base. Iowa, for a healthy portion of the season, did not have a major league candidate second baseman while Cardenas was in Chicago. Meanwhile Watkins was having no trouble in Tennessee, Torreyes and Silva had caught fire in Daytona, DeVoss had a huge OBP (and admittedly a low AVG) in Peoria, and Amaya was making it look easy in Boise. Logically, it made a lot of sense to promote some of those guys, if only for a time. The Cubs didn’t. And I can point to similar examples over the past couple of seasons at a number of different positions as well as other farm systems where promotions of that nature did take place (again, if only for a time).

    Patience is a good thing in prospect development (I push that theme regularly myself), but so is challenging players (another favorite theme of mine). I wonder if the new front office felt that the Cubs had been hedging too much on the side of patience and not enough on challenging players? If that the case, and I am speculating, then it seems fairly likely that a change in that culture would begin at the top. The top guy in player development was Oneri Fleita.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all saying that prospects should be rushed. I am saying, though, that when Watkins has been playing well in Tennessee for a lengthy stretch and the second base job opens up in Iowa, the Cubs should not be afraid to challenge him with that promotion. The promotion of Baez to Daytona when Alcantara went on the DL is exactly the sort of promotion I’m talking about. That type of move has been the exception for the Cubs in recent years, and I wonder if Theo would rather it be the norm.

    Again, I’m only speculating here.

  • Flashfire

    Really not something you want to hear on any number of levels: “I feel real bad,” Castro said. “[Fleita] was like my father. I talked to him all the time here and in the Dominican. I just feel real bad but it’s a business.”

    http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/8271423/chicago-cubs-fire-vice-president-player-personnel-oneri-fleita

  • die hard

    Hope the real reason does not come out in a few weeks and all this is-is a change for the sake of change

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    Fleita will wind up in New York with the Yankees & his drinking & golf buddy Hendry. They both still are living in Park Ridge & are frequently seen together. I would not be surprised if Theo did not like the continuing relationship & assumed in house information was being shared with the Yanks via Hendry & Fleita friendship.

  • yoga master

    I like all the trades/signings so far. We all know who are FA this year and next. If they fire the old man handing out the old style then so be it. The FO knows what they are doing. I live in Des Moines, and I go to i cubs games. The farm system sucks, it’s getting betther as the year goes on. All teams had a draft, not just the cubs.

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