The Chicago Cubs have been making plenty of noise off the field in recent days with team chairman Tom Ricketts’ latest push for renovations at Wrigley Field, but on Sunday they made news for a signing that could have on-field implications.
That’s because the team agreed to terms on a contract with outfielder Manny Ramirez. Ramirez will be a player-coach for the Cubs’ triple-A affiliate in Des Moines, but fans hoping that the slugging outfielder could wind up on the North Side will be disappointed.
“While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs’ major-league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he’s a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in this organization,” Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said in a statement. “Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects.
“If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team,” Epstein continued. “But that is not why he is here. We are thrilled that he wants to work with our young hitters and make a difference.”
Ramirez, who has played 19 big league seasons, racked up 555 career home runs and drove in 1831 in his career, which included a brief stint with the Chicago White Sox in 2010. Ramirez found his greatest successes as a member of the Boston Red Sox, winning two World Series championships with the team before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008.
During that season, Ramirez ended up being a thorn in the side of the Cubs, who cruised to an NL Central title while winning 97 games. In the NLDS, Ramirez slugged two home runs and drove in three runs in the Dodgers’ sweep of the Cubs, dashing the team’s World Series hopes and starting the North Siders on a playoff drought that continues to this day.
As for what Ramirez will bring to the table for the Cubs in the here and now, he will be looked to as a mentor for players like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant as they make their way through the system. After some early season struggles, Baez has been turning on his hitting as of late, with six home runs and 18 RBI for the Iowa Cubs in 37 minor league games this season. His batting average is slowly climbing, but Ramirez will be asked to mentor the youngster as he continues to fine-tune his game before making his way to the big league club either later this year or next season.
Bryant may be joining Baez in triple-A sooner rather than later if he continues to hit at the torrid pace he is setting. With 13 home runs and 42 RBI in 203 plate appearances so far this season, and with a ludicrous OPS of 1.071, Bryant is by far the most intriguing hitter in the Cubs’ system at the moment, and the Cubs may seek to move him up the ladder if he continues to abuse Southern League pitching.
“The Cubs have some very talented young hitters, and I would love nothing more than to make a positive impact on their careers,” Ramirez said in a statement. “I am passionate about baseball and about hitting, and I have a lot to offer. My focus will be on working with the young hitters, making sure they don’t make the same mistakes I made, and helping the team any way I can.”
According to the organization, Ramirez will first report to the team’s complex in Arizona before joining the triple-A club in Des Moines.