8/15 Fleita follow up
Cubs players were surprised to hear that Oneri Fleita was dismissed on Wednesday as the player development director.
“I feel real bad,” shortstop Starlin Castro said. “He was like my father … but it’s a business.”
Fleita was a father figure to several of the Cubs players in his 12 years with the organization. He would take the Latin players into his home, help them assimilate into the U.S. culture, and treat them as if they were his sons. Fleita escorted me on a trip to the Cubs academy in the Dominican Republic, and it was impressive to see how devoted he is to the people there, from the kitchen cooks to the coaching staff. His work was obviously appreciated by the Ricketts family, who gave him a four-year contract extension last September.
But once Jason McLeod arrived in November and took over as scouting and player development director, the situation changed. Theo Epstein said he talked to Fleita about possibly moving to another role in the organization but both agreed it would put Fleita in an “awkward position.” He has solid relationships with players and coaches.
There were two more front office changes on Wednesday. Chuck Wasserstrom, manager of baseball information, was dismissed as his position was eliminated. Wasserstrom had been with the Cubs for 25 years. Ari Kaplan, manager of statistical analysis, was re-assigned as a consultant. Assistant general manager Randy Bush, a holdover from the previous regime, was in “good standing” and will continue in his role, Epstein said. The search for a new farm director will begin immediately, Epstein said, and some internal candidates will be considered.
“There’s a lot of work to be done here, there’s a lot of great people who have contributed in the past,” Epstein said. “Some people will be moving on. Hopefully it proves to be best for the Cubs and best for them.”
Fleita was going to watch the Class A Peoria Chiefs this week before getting the news Wednesday morning. He still planned on going to Peoria — his daughter is looking at Bradley for college — and the Chiefs shouldn’t be surprised if he stops by.
– Carrie Muskat