For months, when his opinion wasn’t vacillating wildly about whether or not he would approve a trade, Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez was telling anyone who would listen how much he loved Chicago. He wanted to stay with the Cubs forever, and there retire in blissful surrender some day down the road.

But that was before Jim Hendry got the boot. Did that change Ramirez’s opinion?

“We’ve got to step back and look at everything,’’ Ramirez’s agent Barry Kinzer said of the change in the Cubs’ front office. ‘‘At this point, it was pretty much a slam dunk [Ramirez would return]. It would have taken something serious for us to move on. We have to see what’s going on there — not only with the GM, but with the manager and everything else.”

‘‘For him to leave would be a big deal,’’ Kinzer continued. ‘‘I think he’s probably going to at least look now and see what’s out there.”

The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012 (with a $2 million buyout), but, if the Cubs exercise it, he can void his agreement and forfeit the option (in other words, he is no longer entitled to the $2 million buyout). Given that structure, Ramirez’s advancing age, and the fact that he would easily be the top third baseman on the market should he become a free agent, Ramirez was probably always going to “at least look … and see what’s out there.”

Of course, the most curious part of this turn: if Ramirez no longer wants to remain in Chicago, can the Cubs flip him in the next week in a waiver deal? Even if the Cubs could put together a deal, it’s not likely they would do it without being overwhelmed. Ramirez is likely just posturing, and wants to see what the new regime brings to the table. In turn, Tom Ricketts isn’t going to be eager to approve a deal sending Ramirez away when the next GM might have wanted to make nice with Aramis.

Ultimately, Ramirez probably remains the Cubs’ best option for third base in 2012. Neither Josh Vitters nor DJ LeMahieu is making an aggressive push to take over the job next year, and few believe Ryan Flaherty can be a Major League regular at third. The free agent market beyond Ramirez is weak, and counting on a trade is poor planning. Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker could theoretically platoon at third, but I’m not sure that idea knocks anyone’s socks off.

So, exercising Ramirez’s option is probably the best, er, option. If he plans to void that option if the Cubs won’t give him a two or three year extension, however, it might be time to start thinking about alternatives, however unattractive they may be.

  • John

    Nice article. Man if we don’t keep Ramirez at third this off season looks more and more dismal!

    • Brett

      You never know what would happen, but, yeah, Ramirez is looking like the best option right now.

  • MichiganGoat

    I will be happy if he doesn’t return. He’s part of the chemistry, hustle, fundamental problem with this team. Maybe he sees the new direction of this team and doesn’t want to be part of a “Culture of Responibility” that is coming. I understand that offensively there isnt a FA, prospect, or internal option that can replace his production, but anything can replace and improve his leadership and an clubhouse presence.

  • CubFan Paul

    yep, my socks are still on ..hopefully he comes back next year because even if the Cubs get pujols or fielder they’re going to have a major power outage in the middle of hte lineup without Ramy

    • MichiganGoat

      It really comes down to how much of a distraction is Ramy? Is he a good influence on Castro or the other youngster that will get a loom next year? Can he provide veteran leadership? iI any of these questions are a negative then it’s best to let him go. I see Ricketts making major culture changes and anyone who is not willing to willing be part of this new direction must go.

    • hardtop

      if they exercise the 16 mil option for ramirez they cant afford fielder or pujols without:
      a: an increase in payroll
      b: a tremendously back-loaded deal
      i’m not sure ricketts is going to want either?

      • Brett

        That’s assuming they add a pitcher. And, for what it’s worth, a Fielder/Pujols deal is likely to be very, very backloaded anyway.

  • bacboris

    Brett, how can he void the option? I thought it was a team option? Am I wrong, did they give him a mutual one? If thats the case, I can understand why he’d want to leave with Hendry gone. It wont be nearly as easy to bend over the next gm and insert so many ridiculous clauses into a signing. Let alone get away with being ok mired in mediocrity.

    • Brett

      My understanding – and it’s a rough one as I haven’t seen the contract – is that it’s a team option, but IF the option is exercised, Ramirez can void the contract. Maybe that’s the functional equivalent of a mutual option, but that is how I believe it plays out in this case.

    • Toosh

      He can’t. It’s the team’s option only. The Cubs can pick it up or pay him 2 million to leave or negotiate an extension.

      • Brett

        According to that Sun-Times article and Cot’s, it’s a team option, but Ramirez can void the deal and choose free agency if he wants (but he doesn’t get the $2 million in that case). It seems like a strange setup to me, but that’s how I read both the ST and Cot’s.

        • Jeff

          I’ve read a couple other sources saying the same thing about the contract. It’s essentially a mutual option, without actually being one.

          This really ticks me off. He told them no way on a trade because he’s so loyal to Chicago, but now he wants to leave when the team can get absolutely nothing in return for him? He can take that kind of loyalty and shove it. This is exactly the reason they should have forced the issue with the trade at the deadline. Now all you geniuses who were complaining about possibly trading him at the deadline can sit here and be happy with your brilliant baseball insight, while the Cubs have Blake DeWitt at third next year and none of the prospects that would have come back in the deal.

          • bacboris

            I agree with the sentiment Jeff, though that might be because I’ve always disliked ARAM. Dont get me wrong, for a long time he was very clutch in RISP situations but with no shows at cub conventions, nonsense with the hitting coaches, and passing on most baseball exhibitions he just wasnt a player Id want a kid to admire.

            The one highlight here is, there is nothing stopping us from offering Arbitration. So at the worst we get a couple of draft picks. Is that better than a package the angels would have given us? No. But then again, it will be something and will start to move out the lackadaisical players away from the young core.

            • Brett

              Great point about the arbitration offer – if the Cubs are willing to pick up his option at $16 million (a cost of $14 million over the buyout), they’d undoubtedly be willing to offer arbitration, where he’d get $14 to $15 million.

              • Jeff

                I’m not sure about the process, but can they offer arbitration after he voids the option year? That seems almost counter productive to the point of having the option in the first place.

                • Brett

                  I’ll have to dig on that, because I’m not certain. It seems to me, unless he’s got a clause in his contract that forbids an offer of arbitration (and those clauses do exist), they can do it. But that’s just my guess.

  • willis

    It’s a catch 22. Yes he is the best option, but the team is going to be painfully bad next year so is it worth it to spend the $14 million it would cost to keep him just to anchor a crappy team?

    • Brett

      Dare I make the same tired “NL Central” point that everyone makes…?

      • willis

        Please refrain. There are ways to get better, but unless the pitching improves drastically then competing, even in this division, is a long way off.

  • jstraw

    Deal him. Dump him. Whatever. We’re not going to the playoffs in 2012.

  • Cheryl

    Ramirez shouldn’t be back next year if the cubs want to improve the chemistry of the team. Yes, he’s got power, but his defense and hustle leave a lot to be desired. If the cubs could rent a player for two or three years via a trade then maybe Baez or one of the first base options the cubs just signed in the draft could be in the mix. Vitters may never get to the point where he is an option. If the cubs could trade Aram, I’d look to somrone like Buerle as a possibility to shore up the pitching. Right now pitching is more of a need than a top flight third baseman

  • Joe Cartwright

    Slam dunk? Come on, Kinzer. Learn the sport.

  • NL_Cubs

    As I mentioned in a previous thread, Ramirez is used to sitting in the rocking chair with no worries, not being held accountable for his laziness by a GM, manager or coaches yet he still collects a full paycheck twice per month. “Half-man A-Ram”.

    Now that a new sheriff (GM) is coming into town and a new deputy (field manager) is most likely on the horizon, Ramirez is feeling a little less freedom of motion in that rocking chair as change is in the air and might actually have to bust his can and earn his pay if he wants to stay a Cub.

    It will be another interesting story coming from Clark and Addison after the 2011 string plays out.

    • MichiganGoat

      Agreed, I want my veteran, tenured Cub to be excited about the new direction of the Cubs. He can still be respectful to Hendry, but his role should be to show excitement and leadership during this transition. If he is so devoted to Chicago then he needs to show it by being supportive of this new direction. He is selfish and needs to be shown the door it will help the team in the long run.

      • http://Bleachernation Bric

        Absolutely. As much as I like him as a player I grew tired of his constant take it easy, hit a few dingers and keep your mouth shut attitude about everything when he started saying he wasn’t going to accept a deal because of his kids issue.

        I’m all in favor of a guy wanting the best for his family- so take a deal or retire. His proiorities obviously aren’t in winning a pennant and his “power” in the middle isn’t gonna be the difference between the Cubs making the playoffs next year (unless Ricketts plans on forking out about 80 mil for some good pitching).

        As it stands, his presence next year is the difference between a 75 and 87 season or a 68 and 92 record. Not a big deal to anyone but Hendry and we all know how that turned out. Rami- thanks for giving us a lot of good years. Now go enjoy your family some place else because it’s time to move on.

  • BFM

    I agree Brett, I think keeping Rami is the best option.
    There is nobody coming onto the free agent market and I don’t think the Cubs can take a chance on a minor leaguer to pick up the offensive slack.

    I have even heard of options to keep Rami at 3rd until they can develop a younger replacement and then possibly moving Rami to first. Of course, only if they need one.

  • MichiganGoat

    I know he won’t replace the offense of ARam, but Wilson Betemit could be a cheap stop-gap for a couple of years. I get to see a lot of Tiger games and he has provided a nice spark to their team and everyone says he is great in the clubhouse.

  • Tony

    All Cubs fans-like myself-must come to the realization that rebuilding is what’s needed, and rebuilding hurts for a while. Ramirez is a good player, no doubt. He’s filled the 3rd base spot for sometime, which was always a problem. Letting him go means admitting defeat, and it adds to the uncertainty surrounding the future.
    However, he is the epitome of why a rebuild is necesssary. He’s older, 2 good years at best left in the tank, and has the feeling that he is worth loads of cash. He is Soriano from a few years ago. Let him go, develop talent, make key trades when needed, and shoot for a competitive team in 2013-2014.
    I am ready to embrace a few lousy years for a decade or more of winning. Can’t be any worse than watching high-priced veterans underachieve and not seem to care…

  • Toosh

    As the World’s Nicest Guy once said, “You can’t rebuild in a big market”.

    • Tony

      That got him canned, too. Yanks did it in the early 90’s. Red Sox did it recently. It can be done if the right people do it. This GM search is huge. I was-and still am-a fan of Hendry the person. His desire to be liked hurt him. Players took huge contracts and underperformed because they knew he would nothing about it. When winning means everything, personal relationships are second.

    • Jeff

      Like I said before, You can’t rebuild in a big market, but it’s okay to suck?

  • Toosh

    Nice catch! Yes, that was Hendry that said that. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

  • Toosh

    Hopefully Ricketts knows what needs to be done for 2012 and beyond, and empowers his new GM to do it.

  • Brett

    Confession: I’m in a fantasy football draft right now, which is why the EBS is delayed. Sorry. It’ll be up asap.

    • Nick

      How is your team looking?

      • Brett

        Pretty good – got to keep Arian Foster in the 4th and Michael Vick in the 7th, so that helps.

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