Cubs sign Manny Ramirez to be player-coach at AAA Iowa

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Mark D. Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs have signed — or, more appropriately, “hired” — veteran slugger Manny Ramirez to be a player-coach for their Triple-A affiliate in Iowa. There are no designs for him to make it to Chicago.

“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 the organization,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said in a statement Sunday.

“I’m at the stage of my life and career where I really want to give something back to the game that I love — the game that has meant so much to me and done so much for me and my family,” added Ramirez, who turns 42 years old this week.

Iowa’s roster includes top shortstop prospect Javier Baez, who ranked fifth this year on Baseball America‘s Top 100 but is batting just .203/.272/.392 with 54 strikeouts in 37 games. Top third base prospect Kris Bryant — ranked eighth on Baseball America’s list — could be on the way to Iowa soon from Double-A Tennessee.

Ramirez was arrested in 2011 on charges of domestic battery against his wife and there’s the performance-enhancing drugs stuff too, but he and Theo obviously know each other well from their days with the Red Sox and it’s not like Manny is going to be a distraction if his daily responsibilities are in Des Moines.

Maybe the .312/.411/.585 career major league hitter can help Baez improve his plate approach.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.