Over the course of the past two weeks, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has acted as if he was going to be the new general manager of the Chicago Cubs. Last week, the Cubs owner signed off on a deal extending the contract of vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita for four more years. Now, Ricketts is expected to sit down with scouting director Tim Wilken this week to discuss his future with the organization. There appears to be a strong chance that Wilken will receive a similar extension like that of Fleita to remain with the organization.
The Chicago Cubs owner is walking a dangerous line. Ricketts has already contradicted himself, as when the Cubs chairman was addressing the media after Jim Hendry’s firing, he told reporters that the new general manager will be the one to determine whether or not Fleita and Wilken would remain with the organization. But with the extension to Fleita* and the likely extension to Wilken, the new general manager of the Cubs will lose out on the opportunity to shape the team’s front office to his liking.
For that reason, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports–who tweeted all day about the Fleita/Wilken decision yesterday–tweets that the one thing he is constantly hearing is that if Ricketts does indeed give Wilken a long-term deal, many prospective general manager will stay away from the Cubs’ general manager position. There has been the rumor going around that the Cubs already have a general manager in place and he has signed off on these deals. That rumor is just that, a rumor. Ricketts is still spending time researching various general manager candidates, and is still a few weeks away from lining up interviews for the Cubs general manager vacancy.
The reason general managers would be scared off by the recent extensions that Ricketts is handing out to various front office personnel is because they are already losing control before they are even hired. Any big-name general manager–Brian Cashman, Andrew Friedman, Theo Epstein, and Billy Beane–would come to an organization with the desire to bring in his own people and create his own regime. Instead, whoever the new general manager is will now have Fleita and Wilken forced on them. This by no means should diminish the tenure’s that both Wilken and Fleita have, both have done an incredible job with the Cubs organization.
One potential general manager hire that would make sense of the recent extensions would be–now former assistant general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies–Chuck Lamar. The speculation was running rampant last night in the wake of Lamar abruptly resigning from the Phillies, and various reporters such as Barry Rozner connecting Lamar to the Cubs position. The biggest connection may have been that while Lamar was the general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, Wilken served under him for three seasons as a special assistant to the general manager.
Lamar has spent most of his front office career with the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays, and Philadelphia Phillies. Lamar was a highly touted assistant with the Braves, and that lead him to earning his first general manager gig with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. His time with the Rays as general manager may perhaps be the biggest reason why Lamar should not be the next general manager of the Cubs. Whether it was the constant signing of washed-up veterans, the questionable trades, or head-scratching draft decisions; Lamar was all kinds of bad as the general manager of the Rays. However, the positive for Lamar would be that he started under John Schuerholtz with the Atlanta Braves, and after his time with the Rays, worked under Pat Gillick with the Phillies organization. Meaning it is likely that if Ricketts reached out to either Gillick or Schuerholtz for advice, both would offer strong endorsements for Lamar.
As night became morning today, it appeared that the reason Lamar resigned from the Phillies was because of existing issues with various personnel in the Phillies’ front office. Though, Philles general manager Ruben Amaro Jr did seem to indicate that Lamar was pursuing other opportunities elsewhere. Whether or not that opportunity is with the Cubs remains to be seen. If anything, I would guess that all the speculation about Lamar is just an attempt by reporters trying to get an upper-hand in the Cubs’ search for a new general manager. In the end, Lamar probably is not going to be the Cubs next general manager.
* There appears to be a clause in Fleita’s contract that allows the new Cubs’ general manager to re-assign him to another position within the Cubs’ front office. There also is believed to be an early opt-out clause in Fleita’s contract.