While there has been little progress on the Cubs’ search for a new general manager, chairman Tom Ricketts has kept busy by making sure at least two of the Cubs’ current front office personnel stay in place. In addition to researching general manager candidates, Ricketts has spent most of his past two weeks evaluating the Cubs’ front office. The Cubs owner is beginning to act on the results that he has concluded from those evaluations. Despite not having a general manager in place, Ricketts has handed out a four year contract to the vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita. An extension for scouting director Tim Wilken is likely in the works too.
The overwhelming thought prevailing from these two extensions, has been that any prospective “big-name” general manager candidate will be turned off by the Cubs position. But, the likelihood of Ricketts actually landing a “big-name” general manager was minimal at best. Andrew Friedman, Theo Epstein, Billy Beane, and Brian Cashman will all likely remain with their current organization paving the way for Ricketts to hire a highly touted assistant general manager.
While the new general manager may not have a say in keeping Wilken or Fleita, he/she can still control their fates. The expectation is that both Fleita’s and Wilken’s contract are flexible and allow the general manager to re-assign them to a different position in the Cubs front office. But with Fleita’s reputation, there is a strong chance that the new general manager will value his input as vice president of player personnel.
Or so writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Haugh mentions that Fleita will be a key “team player” for whoever the next general manager of the Cubs is.
"“When the new boss steps in and says this is what I want you to do, that’s what you do,” Fleita said Thursday in a phone interview. “You have to respect there are only 30 general managers in the world. You have to understand when there’s change, and someone new, you have to be the one who’s ready to make adjustments. You’re here to serve that person. Nobody’s going to stand in his way.” Chicago Tribune"
From the sound of it, it would appear that Fleita is more than willing to work with the next general manager. Despite Fleita’s willingness, the conception among national reporters has been that Ricketts’ inexperience will scare away any prospective general manager. But once the facts are all laid out, it would seem that Fleita would be a perfect fit for whoever the new general manager is. Ricketts is searching for a young analytical general manager who emphasizes in player development. Going off of that criteria, Fleita and the new general manager should develop a strong relationship. Fleita–along with Wilken–has strived in developing the Cubs’ farm system and is one of the main reasons why the Cubs have such a strong presence in the Dominican Republic.
Regardless of what is said about the the “big-name” candidates being sour on the Fleita and soon to be Wilken extensions, all that talk is irrelevant. While hiring one of the “big-name” candidates would have been ideal, it has always been my belief that Ricketts wants to hire a young general manager, someone that can hold the position for the long-term. That sentiment could very well be the reason why Chicago White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn, and Red Sox assistant general manager Ben Cherington are the perceived front-runners for the position. Ricketts wants to set-up a nucleus of front office personnel that can operate together for the long haul in order to turn the Cubs into perennial contenders.