Aramis Ramirez has (most recently) said he wants to return to the Chicago Cubs in 2012, but he’s also started to hint that he would prefer to return on a multiyear extension.
Now he’s outright saying it.
“If I hit the marketplace I should end up with a two- or three-year deal,” Ramirez told ESPNChicago.com. “The reason is, there aren’t a lot of third baseman available this offseason. But if [Cubs officials] approach me, I’m sure we can get something done. But probably not for one year.”
Ramirez will turn 34 next year and is coming off a big year in a weak market, so it would be unfair to begrudge him for his position. He’s also said many times that he doesn’t know how much longer he wants to play, so he’s probably looking for the last contract of his career. He hopes that contract comes from the Cubs.
“My priority has always been to stay with the Cubs,” Ramirez said. “But, right now, we don’t even have a GM to make any decisions. So I hope we finish strong the next two weeks and then we’ll see what happens.”
The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012 (with a $2 million buy-out), but, if the Cubs exercise the option, Ramirez can void his contract. Would he do that if the Cubs exercised the option? No one has yet asked him, to my knowledge, but he has strongly suggested he would.
“A one-year thing is not ideal,” Ramirez said. “Every player wants to be in place for at least two or three years. But the one-year stuff, that’s kind of tough to do. But I do want to stay with the Cubs if I can.”
Setting aside the extension talks for a moment, I hope the next GM takes Ramirez at his word, and, if an extension isn’t already worked out, picks up Ramirez’s option. Ramirez will then void the deal, saving the Cubs the $2 million buyout. Just a tip, Next GM Person.
As for extending Ramirez, the decision will be one of the most difficult – and most telling – decisions made by the Cubs’ new GM.
If Ramirez says it’s a multiyear extension or he’ll walk, the next GM will seriously have to consider letting Ramirez walk. Ramirez is right that, on the open market, he could get a three-year deal worth as much as $36 to $40 million. But the Cubs would have no business giving him that kind of deal. No, there isn’t a ready-made replacement at third, but neither are the Cubs so near a championship that Ramirez will make or break their World Series dreams.
Ultimately, the Ramirez decision comes down to what the expectation is for the Cubs next year. If they want to be competitive, they will almost certainly have to find a way to bring Ramirez back. As noted, there isn’t a ready-made replacement – at least, not one who can duplicate Ramirez’s production – and the free agent market is bone dry after Ramirez. A two-year extension for reasonable dollars wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Once it starts pushing three years, though, it starts to risk blocking kids who eventually do become ready, and risks further dragging down a budget that is both real, and currently strained.
If the Cubs decide they do not need to be competitive in 2012, with an eye toward rebuilding for 2013 and beyond, letting Ramirez walk is an easy decision. They’ll save as much as $14 million, and will pick up a draft pick in the process. The Cubs can let DJ LeMahieu, Ryan Flaherty, and Blake DeWitt fight it out … and the position will probably be a nightmare for the year. But, that’s kind of what happens during a rebuild.
There’s always a third option – some unforeseen trade – but, short of that, the Ramirez decision will foreshadow what the Cubs plan on doing in 2012. If they can get him back on a two-year deal, perhaps they’ll try to win in the near-term. If not, perhaps it’s time for a rebuild.