Ricketts' first baseball hire is stats guru

CHICAGO -- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts made his first hire in the baseball operations department, naming Ari Kaplan as the team's statistical analyst manager.

Ricketts previously had concentrated on adding to the business and marketing staffs in his first eight months of ownership.

Ricketts informed the baseball operations department of the hiring three weeks ago.

Kaplan has created statistical profiles of players and organizations for the past 20 years. The 40-year-old Chicago native has blended scouting with statistical analysis for 21 major league teams.

The Cubs have lost 10 of their last 14 games. General manager Jim Hendry will have to decide in the next six weeks which direction the team will take.

Ricketts and his family embarked on a 15-day photo safari in Africa on June 13. A source close to Ricketts told ESPNChicago.com that the owner has the ability to communicate with his front-office executives while he's away.

The source also said Ricketts informed his front office before leaving what direction he preferred the team takes.

Baseball's trade deadline is July 31.

Bruce Levine covers baseball for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.