Updated: September 3, 2011 1:58PM
The Cubs are without a general manager, but they will continue to have their highly-regarded player development director in place for the foreseeable future.
Oneri Fleita, 44, was given a four-year contract extension this week by team owner Tom Ricketts, who made a point of praising Fleita’s work in developing the team’s farm system and Latin American operations when he talked about the team’s future direction last month when general manager Jim Hendry was fired.
Fleita has been with the Cubs since 1995, first as a minor league manager, then as a scout, director of Latin operations and eventually as vice president of player development since 2008. He has been instrumental in bringing in players like Starlin Castro and Carlos Marmol and this season oversaw the investment of more than $7 million in the team’s international signings--a franchise record.
The team’s farm system--which Ricketts has said will be the prime engine of the Cubs’ future--has been increasingly successful under his tenure. This season, Class AA Tennessee and Class A Daytona already have qualified for post-season play--a third straight season for Tennessee and four of the last five in the post-season.
Though Ricketts has said the new general manager will have authority to hire a manager and other operatonal personnel, he felt strongly enough about keeping Fleita to extend a new contract in the face of overtures by the Detroit Tigers to seek permission to try to lure him away for a similiar position with them.
Fleita was close to Hendry, their relationship dating to the late 1980s when Fleita played baseball at Creighton where Hendry was the college coach. Hendry was fired in July with one more year remaining on his contract. Ricketts has said he is looking for someone with strong player development leanings and past success to take over the position.