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.

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.