Cubs

Cubs: Manny Ramirez sends positive message to Javier Baez

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Cubs: Manny Ramirez sends positive message to Javier Baez

Javier Baez is going through a personal crisis at a time when his professional career is at a crossroads.

Manny Ramirez still sees so much potential in Baez, who took a leave of absence from Triple-A Iowa after his sister, Noely, died last week at the age of 21. The Cubs are giving Baez space as he mourns an inspirational figure in his life.

“When you lose part of your family, you get kind of down,” Ramirez said Monday at Wrigley Field. “But I told him: Leave everything to God.”

[MORE: Cubs feel for Javier Baez during his leave of absence]

Ramirez found religion and rehabilitated his image to the point where Theo Epstein’s front office hired him to be a player/coach last season at Iowa, where he formed a strong bond with Baez. In their own ways, they are baseball gym rats, incredibly gifted hitters with a few personality quirks.

Ramirez enjoyed the experience enough to become a hitting consultant this year, with Baez being perhaps his biggest project.

Baez isn’t expected to return to the Iowa club until later this week. Noely had been born with spina bifida and confined to a wheelchair, but her death was described as sudden and unexpected – within the context of her medical condition – and not something that weighed on Baez throughout spring training.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

After a long debate in Arizona, there’s still a feeling inside the organization that Baez should be on the big-league team now. The thinking being the Cubs could use his speed on the bases and presence at second base, where he would almost function like a quarterback or point guard running the defense. It could also be a way to accelerate his learning curve at the plate after he struck out 95 times during a 52-game audition last season. There’s no doubt he plays the game hard.

“We got his support,” Ramirez said. “That’s all we can do. He’s going to come back and do his job. We need him here in Chicago. We need him at second base. The team will be better and he’s going to be fine.”

For all his Manny Being Manny moments – and questionable off-the-field decisions – Ramirez won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox and became one of the best hitters of his generation with a surprisingly methodical, studious approach.

Ramirez recognizes talent and sees a bright future for Baez, a 2011 first-round pick who is only 22 years old and had been Baseball America’s No. 5 overall prospect heading into last season.

“It’s like I always tell Javy: He’s an unbelievable kid,” Ramirez said. “He can play. He can run. And his hitting is going to come along. I haven’t seen (anybody) with that kind of bat speed.”

Theo Epstein on Manny Machado rumors: 'It's honestly something we're looking at and just rolling our eyes at'

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Theo Epstein on Manny Machado rumors: 'It's honestly something we're looking at and just rolling our eyes at'

Despite the MLB trade deadline being two months away, rumors of the Cubs potentially acquiring Orioles' shortstop Manny Machado have intensifed recently. Regardless, Cubs president Theo Epstein made his point on the rumor frenzy quite clear Thursday.

"I can say with regards to this particular spasm of media frenzy, it is outrageously outsized when you compare it to the reality of the situation," Epstein said Thursday on 670 The Score.

Machado is having an unbelievable season with the Orioles, hitting .328 with 15 home runs and 43 RBIs entering Thursday. If traded, he would undoubtedly provide a boost to any ballclub, but that is a big "if."

Of course, the MLB season is not even two months old yet, which Epstein pointed out as being a big factor in the situation.

"It's May," he said. "We're still figuring out who we are as a team this year. We're still figuring out our place in the division.

"There's an atypical amount of trade discussion in May this year, which is essentially nil."

Rumors of the Cubs being a potential player in acquiring Machado make sense. At 15-34, the Orioles have the worst winning percentage (.306) in the MLB. With their current positioning, trading Machado could start a rebuild that the Orioles might just need. The Cubs have a 24-year-old shortstop in Addison Russell that the Orioles could acquire to a) replace Machado and b) use as the face of their rebuild.

Be that as it may, Epstein said the rumors are something that the Cubs are "just rolling our eyes at."

"I understand it's natural for people to connect the dots and there to be this kind of frenzy from time to time, but it's honestly something we're looking at and just rolling our eyes at," he said. "It's not like July, where every now and then there's lots of coverage on deals that are actually being discussed or actually might happen.

"This one is just out there in fantasy land at this point."

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

Albert Almora Jr. joins Kelly Crull on the Cubs Talk Podcast to weigh in on a variety of topics, including his budding bromance with rumored Cubs target Manny Machado, his expanded role and how he spends his time off away from the ballpark.

Plus, Almora has a surprise pick for the organization’s unsung hero, stating the Cubs would’ve never won the World Series without this guy.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: