Last night, Aramis Ramirez left the game in the sixth inning with a quad strain, and acknowledged to reporters that he might not return to the Chicago Cubs next season. This, of course, has been a possibility for months, and Ramirez just said a week ago that he might walk if he doesn’t get a multiyear extension. But, for some reason, this time, it sent the media into a tizzy.

“Probably. There’s a good chance,” Ramirez said when asked if he might have just played his last game with the Cubs. “I’m a free agent and right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It looks like I’m going to hit the market.”

Does everyone really need me to point out how carefully crafted that statement is? How obviously it is designed to remind the Cubs that Ramirez holds leverage in any extension talks?

The story here isn’t that Ramirez may be done as a Chicago Cub. That was the story weeks or months ago. The story here is how Ramirez continues to make his contract situation – be it an extension, his option, or his right to decline a trade – the story. He and his agent are getting very good at it.

“It looks like I’m going to hit the market.”

I can’t get over that statement. It’s like his agent, Paul Kinzer, had Ramirez on his knee with his hand up Ramirez’s back. Kinzer was even drinking water while Ramirez spoke!

This statement is from a guy who has said repeatedly that he wants to stay in Chicago – even as recently as this weekend – and for whom the Cubs hold a $16 million option for 2012. But Ramirez can void that option (and forfeit his $2 million buyout along the way). So he’s telling the Cubs: don’t bother picking up my extremely lucrative 2012 option if you’re not going to extend me for multiple years. Ramirez wants to stay in Chicago … but only if he gets a multiyear deal.

And that’s how you know his latest statements are just more gamesmanship. If Ramirez genuinely wanted to stay in Chicago, he’d be saying things like, “I hope the Cubs pick up my option, and then we can work out a deal from there.” But he’s not. Instead, he’s saying things about being a “free agent” and “going to hit the market.” And this:

“We don’t have a GM, so I don’t know who you talk to … I think we’re ready to move on.”

Really, Aramis? Just because there’s no full-time GM in place (there’s an interim GM, by the way; his name is Randy Bush – you’re welcome), you don’t know to whom you can speak about your contract situation? You do know that the Cubs have to make a decision about your option within five days of the end of the World Series, and that there may not be a GM in place then, either, right? You do know that some guy named Ricketts signs the checks, right?

Of course Ramirez knows to whom to speak. He and his agent say they haven’t heard from Tom Ricketts, though. So his first move – as it has been for months – is to run to the media and talk about how he’s “going to hit the market”? Somehow I suspect that, if Ramirez wanted a brief audience with Ricketts, he could get it.

Something stinks. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the way this has played out has me feeling less than enthusiastic about retaining Ramirez’s services, even if it might be the best thing in the near term for the Cubs.

UPDATE: Just a minor update, but, according to multiple reports, Ramirez’s agent will meet with interim GM Randy Bush today. Suddenly Ramirez and his agent know with whom to meet. My guess is the Cubs weren’t thrilled about Ramirez going to the media for all of the reasons discussed above.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll concede that it is entirely possible that Ramirez has desperately been trying to communicate with whoever is in charge, and has tried all available methods of privately discussing an extension with the Cubs. And, in his frustration at being stonewalled, he’s turned to the media. There is nothing inherently wrong about “negotiating through the media,” if it is the only way to get things done.

But Ramirez has two problems in that regard: (1) as I mentioned, he has admitted that he hasn’t even spoken to Tom Ricketts; and (2) negotiating through the media generally works only where you have the fan support to put pressure on the team to help you get your way. As to number two, while it is hardly a scientific survey, when I wrote last week that Ramirez was threatening to walk if he didn’t get a multiyear extension, there was one overwhelming response from readers: “goodbye.”

Ramirez has been a great Cub for a long time, but I don’t know that he’ll find the kind of fan support that would be necessary to pressure the Cubs’ brass into giving him that multiyear deal. Instead, Ramirez will just continue to look bitter and greedy, even though I’m not sure either is true.

One final positive word about Ramirez: if he becomes a free agent, he’ll be the best third baseman on the market by far. He’s getting up in years, and this may well be his last chance to secure a multiyear deal. He has a right to try and get as much money as he can from whatever team will give it.

I just think that the team isn’t going to be the Cubs; or, if it is, he’s going about getting that money the wrong way.

  • philoe beddoe

    seems about right….he planned his yearly injury well this year, got his numbers up to a good place, now he has a couple of weeks to make sure he has no visa problems….seriously though, he has been a great hitter for us, a huge part of 2003, and 07, and 08, but we Cub fans have to learn to let go…we could put Ronnie’s statue out at third next year and it will stop more balls than Aramis does at this point…he is still a professional hitter, but probably a DH at this point…

  • Fishin Phil

    I resent the puppet reference.  See avatar.

    • Joe Cartwright

      Ha ha, hand lotion!

  • die hard

    his defense has gone down alot….sure hes hot lately but cant hit under pennant pressure…market may be a wake up call to him….we’ll make better use of the money saved by putting into minor league development…….let Pena go too..let kids play next year as true rebuilding year…havent had a bottoms up rebuilding year in a long time…need to start from the foundation instead of trying to prop up a crumbling structure…same applies to ball park too…needs to be taken down and a Miller Park type park put up….maybe will remove curse too

    • hardtop

      i would rather sit on a pile rubble at wrigley than build an amusement park on its hallowed grounds. blasphemer.

      • Hogie

        I think they do need a new park, but you are absolutely right hardtop. There are plenty of stadium models that don’t look like a county fair. Have you ever been to Miller? It’s like baseball is the sideshow! The focus should be about the game. Additions to the new park should be better facilities for the team and the fan, but so help me, if I ever see a slide in the chicago bleachers that will be the last home game I see!

        • hardtop

          nah, i mean no new park. the triangle building and renovations can and should save wrigley. the cubs arent like another teams, they arent the marlins, or the d-backs, or the rockies… wrigley is a huge part of the teams identity, as much as the pin stripes, the logo, or even a baseball.

          • Hogie

            Even if that identity holds the team back? I’m not sure that Wrigley can be renovated enough to accomidate the facilities that a champoinship team requires. I hope I am wrong, and the icon can stand, because you are right with the identity part. Don’t missunderstand me, I love Wrigley. Hell, I turned our nursery into a miny Wrigley, took 40 hours of measuring and hand painting, but I would rather cheer a champion in a new stadium, than a loser in the old.

  • Fishin Phil

    I certainly don’t begrudge Ramirez the opportunity to explore the FA market.  However, it does make that load of crap about not wanting to be traded prior to the trade deadline stink even more than it did at the time.

  • MichiganGoat

    Unprofessional, there is another Cub in a similar situation but we don’t hear him waffling and cryptically talking to the media- his name is Pena. Pena has been quiet, positive, and professional despite the fact that he does not have a contract next year. For another example of how to be professional during your contract year see Pujols. Goodbye Ramirez, thanks for making your exit easy on us fans- way to go out on a POSITIVE note (yes that is sarcasm)

  • Sam

    I agree with Aramis, it is time to move on, its getting to the point where it is just straight up unprofessional, not to mention that it is embarrassing to the organization when you have one of our most nationally recognized players basically dragging the Cubs through the mud in the media. But it wouldn’t even be that big of a deal if (1) he didn’t change his mind every week (he must have memory problems in his old age) and (2) if he were actually productive when it mattered (he didn’t start to hit until after the all-star break, and long after the Cubs season was over) which he has done for the past few years. If he really wanted to stay in Chicago he would take his $16 million ( which is probably more money than I will ever see in my entire life) and try to negotiate with the Cubs behind closed doors. Word to wise Aramis, publicly ripping on the team isn’t exactly how you go about getting a contract extension.

  • chris margetis

    Don’t let the door hit you on your lazy ass on the way out.

  • Baseballet

    So long Aramis.  Feel free to retire and participate full time in your favorite sport: cockfighting.  It’s good to know there’s a sport out there that he’s passionate about participating in.

  • joeydafish

    AramASS, don’t forget to take Pena with you and if you wouldn’t mind pay off Soriano so he can tag along to the cockfights. The Three Amigos of the OBL (Over-rated Basebal Leage)

  • Ol’CharlieBrown

    I think Aramis’ insecurity is shining through. Yes, he knows he’ll be the best 3rd baseman on the market, but I think he’s also realizing he’s not the hot commodity that he once was. It also seems like Aramis is letting his ego/pride fuel much of this. It’s like Brett said, it’s not as if he has NOBODY he could talk to besides the media. Im sure Ricketts or Bush would sit down and at least listen. I think Aramis feels like he is “the man” on this team and that the Cubs need him but he doesn’t need the Cubs. He wants the Cubs to come crawling to him and say, “Please, don’t leave. We need you, Aramis. Won’t you please resign with us for a multiyear extension?” Aramis is pretty good (hitting), but he’s also pretty bad (hustle, fielding, running, clutch, leadership). He can’t act entitled anymore.

  • Hogie

    DJ gets the start at 3rd and LaHair at 1st, but, but , but the Brewers are contenders!

  • http://Bleachernation Dan Ballard

    Don’t let the door hit you in the arse. Your lazy butt got fat and very rich off the Cubs, and its time to move on. Sure your a good hitter, but very injury prone and getting up there in years. It’s time to go young and see what the kids have to offer. Next one out the door has to be Soriano? that contract has haunted the organization for far to long….

  • Windy City Misfit

    If he does walk.. don’t we save 2M and get a good draft pick?

  • Toosh

    The Cubs would save $2 million. The draft pick depends on whether they offer him arbitration or not and on who signs him.

    • Jeff

      If he declines the option, then I would think arbitration would be a no brainer.  If he doesn’t want his option, he’s not going to accept arbitration.  It should be an easy draft pick.  Although for some inexplicable reason he’s a type B, so no first round pick.  Compare his recent numbers to David Wright and tell me why one is type A and the other is type B.

  • Dumpman

    A lot of post here have the fan aspect.. I tend to agree with Aram. It’s his option built into the contract that both sides agreed to. He’d be stupid to not explore options to benefit himself, just as the big club would be foolish to not investigate options to better benefit its own self. It’s probably best going foward to part ways. I still dont think we have a legit shot to fully compete in a couple years. I’d perfer to not blow our wad on an aging 3B when other areas of our organization would be better suited for the funding.

    • Jeff

      The problem is that he handcuffed the organization at the trade deadline with his talk about wanting to stay in Chicago, and wanting his option exercised.  Only he turns around and decides he’s done after the team can’t get anything in return for him.  I also don’t buy the excuse that he wants to pick where he plays.  He has 10 & 5 rights, he could turn down any trade he wanted, meaning he could have picked his destination of choice.  This is more selfishness from one of the most selfish ball players I’ve ever seen.

      • Fishin Phil

        “This is more selfishness from one of the most selfish ball players I’ve ever seen.”

        And there you have it in a nutshell.

  • Tim

    I’d offer Ramirez 2 years, 26 million with a mutual option for a third year at 15 million. Good third baseman are almost impossible to find and our internal options aren’t ready. If we keep Ramirez and sign Fielder, we have a chance to be real good again very soon.

    • Toosh

      The new GM’s going to have a hard decision to make. If I were the Cubs, I would decline the option and offer arbitration. Ramirez won’t accept. As for him being a “good” 3B, I disagree. He doesn’t start hitting until June and he doesn’t play D’ at all. The Cubs can go out and get a 3B who plays better defense and at least tries to hit in April and May. And save a lot of money.

      • Brett

        I’d force his hand: pick up the option, and make him void the contract. Then, one of two things happens: (1) the Cubs get Ramirez in 2012 on a one-year, $14 million (effectively) deal; or (2) he voids the contract, and the Cubs can get compensation when he signs elsewhere (and they save $2 million in the process).

        • TWC

          Exactly.  And, in doing so, he can look like an ass.  He can claim all he wants that he would like to stay a Cub, but the money will call him elsewhere.  Which is fine.

  • Dumpman

    Thats exactly what they should do brett. Win Win for us. If he accepts we get another year of a top 3B. If he walks we get compensation and salary relief.

    • Toosh

      He’s not a “top” 3B. He hits for 2/3 of the season and doesn’t play defense at all. In effect, he’s 1/3 of a complete 3B. The new GM can better spend his payroll elsewhere.

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  • Nomar’s Left Glove

    If he becomes a free agent, would he be a Type A free agent? If so, take the draft pick. If not, I think that they might be wise to negotiate a bit. If he goes, there will be other options.

    • Brett

      Projections have him as a Type B, which means the Cubs would get a compensatory round pick (after the first round).