The Cubs may be zeroing in on Oakland combo

The Cubs may be zeroing in on Oakland combo
Billy Beane and David Forst

Tom Ricketts and his staff have kept things relatively quiet.   They had people speculating about the Jim Hendry decision and believing the Cubs were in the process of making that decision.   The reality was that the decision had been made a month earlier.  Now, while everyone seems to be locked in on the Cubs GM search,could it be that the Cubs have made that decision as well, or at least maybe they're a lot closer to it than we think?  Not much, if anything, has been leaked so far.  In this day and age, that's not easy to do.   What little clues, rumors, etc. are out there seem to point in one direction...


West as in Oakland.  As in Billy Beane. As in David Forst.

Here's why I think the Cubs may be leaning that way.

1) Beane is becoming frustrated with trying to compete with the big market teams. Where once he was able to find undervalued players and exploit market inefficiencies from underneath everyone's noses, now he has to compete for those types of players.  The problem is that other teams have followed his lead and now use some of the same strategies -- except that they've got more money to outbid his team.  Beane already had a chance to move to a bigger market opportunity in Boston and passed it up.  Would he pass up that chance again if the Cubs came calling given his recent frustrations?

2) The stadium situation is looking a little grim so the financial disadvantage probably isn't going to go away.

3) A's owner Lew Wolff has said he won't stand in the way if Beane has a chance to better his situation.

4) There are rumors that the Cubs met with both Beane and Forst while in SF-- and that Ricketts brought along Tim Wilken, Oneri Fleita, and Ari Kaplan, three key front office execs that the Cubs would like to keep.

5) The Cubs extended Oneri Fleita not too long after this meeting.  It could well just be coincidence (and ESPN's Bruce Levine says they did it because the Tigers were after Fleita), but Ricketts has said that he would allow the new GM to make these decisions and the fact that he signed him to a 4 year deal makes you wonder if perhaps Beane has signed off on it.

6) Of all the experienced GMs, Beane would be the most likely to stick with guys like Fleita, Wilken, and the entire Cubs scouting staff.  Oakland isn't able to invest in scouting personnel the way the Cubs are, and the current staff here would be an upgrade to what he has right now.  Guys like Epstein and Cashman would probably prefer to bring their own guys in.

7) Ricketts did say that the new GM would report directly to him.  That would seem to indicate a more experienced GM who doesn't require a go-between.   Beane fits that description well.   It could also mean that Beane and Forst are coming as a package deal with each getting a promotion when they make the transition to the Cubs: Beane as PBO and Forst as GM.

Although I wouldn't say there's one single solid piece of evidence, when you take them all together, it makes some sense that the Cubs could move in this direction.  It would certainly give them a very experienced and very balanced front office that is as good as any in the game -- especially if Forst is part of the deal.

It's just one avenue the Cubs could take but it's not the only one.  We've already talked about Ben Cherington as a different kind of option who meets Ricketts criteria for his next GM.  Tomorrow we'll talk about a possible sleeper candidate who may fit the Cubs needs a lot better than people realize.




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  • Excellent article John, and very possible! Billy Beane is the only big name GM I see taking the Cubs job. That being said , I think the Cubs re-signed Fleita to keep from the Tigers as Bruce Levine said. In that case , if new GM comes in the Cubs can always tell the GM that he can hire a new farm director but Fleita will have a place here,somewhere

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    Of the experienced guys, I think Beane is the most likely as well. There is more and more sentiment out there that the other 3 guys (Capman, Epstein, Friedman) will conclude they have it pretty good where they are...except all the journalists who say this seem to cover themselves with "unless the Cubs make them an offer they can't refuse"...well, yeah.

    But Beane fits Ricketts criteria and has the added advantage of being in place a lot sooner than some of the other guys out there. The Cubs could hit the ground running going into the offseason with an early hire as opposed to scrambling to get things together and getting caught up to speed. In that sense I almost prefer Beane over the other guys, especially if Forst is part of the deal.

    And I agree, worst case scenario you reassign Fleita to another role, but I think any GM would like to have him in some capacity.

  • This is starting to make a lot of sense to me too. Now TR is very tricky but the dots could connect. I dont think they bring in Beane to not GM though. I think he could be pres of BO and GM and groom somebody in a few years but...I think the only way the extended Fleita is with a blessing of sorts..thats what I just wrote

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    We've been discussing the implications of the Fleita signing as well. One theory is that he's going to bring in a young GM who won't have complete control. Another is what we both talked about -- that this re-signing was done with someone's blessing.

    There's also Bruce Levine's more mundane explanation that the Tigers were after Fleita....

  • I was just told that Ari did not make the trip to bay area as reported and TR didnt meet with Beane

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Well thank you Captain Buzzkill haha. Though it is nice to have reports. Although, look where all those reports on Hendry left us.

    I would be happy with Beane coming to Chicago though. I can imagine the 'glass half empty' media would start crying and moaning about how this move was just because of "Moneyball" and TR doesn't know what he's doing, blah blah blah. But the bottom line is that it would be a good baseball move for the franchise.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Maybe he met with Wolff...or Forst? And it didn't deny that Wilken and Fleita made the trip ;)

    The Cubs are going to be very secretive throughout this process, I think -- as they were with the Hendry firing. It's going to be tough to figure out what's true, what's a smoke screen, and anything in between.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The Detroit was after Fleita has smoke screen written all over it. Fleita had a year left on his current deal. I'm not saying Detroit wasn't interested. They may have been. Depending on who you read, some stories say that Detroit called Ricketts to ask permission to talk to Fleita. Some also say Ricketts gave them his permission to do so. What I'm saying is that Detroit's interest was used as an excuse for something else. Ricketts didn't extend Fleita because he is some "Fan Boy." He wouldn't have done so unless he was pretty sure the next GM was going to be okay with it.

  • John,

    Would Forst and Beane both be "allowed" to walk away from Oakland? I thought that Forst was the GM in waiting in Oakland. I could see Oakland allowing one of them to leave, and they might prefer it were Beane, since he costs more and has been getting noticeably frustrated at recent trends there. I have a difficult time imagining that Oakland would allow both to leave that would make the have to scramble to fill their own holes in the front office.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Forst may actually be more difficult. But owner Lew Wolff has gone on record saying he wouldn't impede Beane from trying to improve. Wolff understands the difficulty of the Oakland situation and appears to empathize with Beane. I don't know if he's as amenable to letting Forst walk too -- but, if not, there are plenty of good candidates to groom out there Beane could bring along instead if he's made PBO/GM.

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    According to the SF Chronicle, Wolff said he wouldn't stand in the way of either Beane "or" Forst leaving. He didn't say Bean "and" Forst, but he also didn't say he wouldn't let both of them go. If I'm Ricketts and I'm looking west to fill the GM vacancy, why not shoot for the moon and try to get them both? If Wolff is to be taken seriously, you probably still get one of them.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    He knows Oakland has some financial difficulties and he seems empathetic about wouldn't surprise me if he let both go.

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    Ricketts is supposed to meet with Tim Wilken over the weekend of September 16th according to Bruce Levine.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Yeesh...wonder what that's about...

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    I am a Oakland fan and if the Cubs hire Beane and/or Frost the Athletics should be given two top players. Also, the Cubs support a new stadium for Oakland.

  • In reply to Carl Elftman:

    It's certainly possible they may get some form of compensation, but as far as the stadium goes the Cubs have their own issues with fixing up Wrigley!

    A's owner Lew Wolff said he wouldn't impede Beane from leaving if that's what he wanted to do, so I would presume that means he won't be demanding top players as compensation. Forst may be a different story, however, it's not likely the A's would be okay with letting both go.

  • That's a really good dig to learn that Cubs people met with Beane. Beane the best choice? I would say a strong no.

    HIs results have been lousy for several years. I think anyone who didn't have an anti-sabermetric bias would grade him an A after his early successes. Not anymore. I think his overall grade now has slipped all the way down to the B-/C+ area.

    Also, think harder about one of the passages in here. When other GM's started applying sabermetrics to player selection, Beane fell back. Well, that's like when a player has early success, and then the opponents find weaknesses, and the player falls back. The announcers always say, quite correctly, that player must re-adjust. In any industry, you expect your competitors to get smarter, and then you must raise your game. But what we have here is an excuse for Beane that the poor guy suddenly had too many other Beaneheads in other GM chairs.

    Beane also doesn't stand out as an organization-builder or in certain personality traits. The first is really important. The second is hard to quantify, but Beane is known to be more into himself than a people guy.

  • In reply to michaelc:

    I like the analogy of making adjustments as a player would, but I think it's really tough to do in this case.

    Beane's niche was to find undervalued guys that nobody wanted -- exploit market inefficiencies. Now he's competing with teams who look for the same players except that they can outbid him at the drop of a hat.

    The goal then would be to find the next market inefficiency, but it isn't always easy. Last year Jack Zdurenciek of the Mariners was lauded as a genius for going after what was considered the new inefficiency -- defensive players. Well, we all know things haven't worked out so well for the Mariners.

    The truth is that money does cover up mistakes because Boston tried a similar strategy as the Mariners but they were able to hedge their bets by also investing heavily in known quantities -- and thus were able to stay in contention.

    As for Beane's ego...this is true. But it isn't always a bad thing. It gives him the confidence to take charge and change the culture of this organization, something it badly needs...but there are limits as well. You also have to be able to listen to the people around you too. I don't know exactly where Beane fits in that spectrum but I would say that at least some degree of ego is needed to be a successful GM

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