Late last night, Aramis Ramirez reiterated something he’s been suggesting for some time – namely, that he plans to head to free agency if the Cubs don’t sign him to a multiyear extension.

Today, his agent took the rhetoric up another notch after meeting with Cubs’ interim GM Randy Bush.

“Randy and I had a great conversation about Aramis,” Kinzer told ESPNChicago. “We also talked about the other players I represent [on the Cubs, including Carlos Marmol, Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro].

“I let Randy and [Chairman and Owner] Tom Ricketts know that we’re going to test the free-agent market. I also told them the Cubs would be on our short list to return if they’re interested in signing us.

“Both Tom and Randy were receptive to our conversation, but they said any decision on the team going forward would have to be made by the new general manager,” Kinzer said. “There’s no doubt Aramis will be one of the top free agents to hit the market in November, and we’ll be looking for a three or four-year deal.”

You’ll recall that the Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, but, if the Cubs exercise the option, Ramirez can void the contract. The option comes with a $2 million buyout, which would be forfeited if Ramirez voids the contract. And, it seems to me that Ramirez’s agent just cost his client that $2 million.

If Ramirez is absolutely intent on testing free agency, as he says he is, the Cubs can happily pick up Ramirez’s option, rather than declining it and paying Ramirez his $2 million buyout. Ramirez will then follow through with his thread to void the contract, and the Cubs will have an additional $2 million to spend in 2012. (If the playoffs end, and the Cubs end up buying out Ramirez, we can conclude only that Ramirez was bluffing, and intended to stay with the Cubs if they picked up his option – a $14 million decision the Cubs may not want to make.)

Now, then…

If your first reaction to this official declaration is anything like mine, you’re pretty upset right now. Why? Aramis Ramirez absolutely refused to consider a trade earlier in the season because he wanted to stay with the Cubs for the final two months of the season. Now he refuses to stay with the Cubs for an entire additional year?

I’m all about a player getting paid when he can – Ramirez has earned the right, by virtue of his huge numbers and a weak market, to go out and get as much money as he can. This might, after all, be his last contract.

But for him to put the organization’s grapes in a vice midseason under the pretense that he just couldn’t leave Chicago is aggravating beyond words.

Consider what he said earlier today about staying in Chicago.

“I can’t be here for a rebuilding process,” Ramirez said. “I’m not that kind of player anymore. I’m 33. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to play. I know it’s hard to win, but I want to compete. That’s what I want to do.”

Then why didn’t you let the Cubs trade you to a contender?!

I’m sure Ramirez would say he hoped to stay in Chicago long-term, he hoped the Cubs would put together a competitive team in 2012, and he didn’t know that Jim Hendry was going to be fired. But, even if that’s true, there is no reason that this “decision” to test free agency couldn’t have been made months ago.

Under that theory, Ramirez and the Cubs can share my blame. I know the GM transition is a wrinkle that outsiders cannot fully appreciate, but it seems to me that this whole thing should have been more explicitly flushed out back in July, when the Cubs and Ramirez still could have done something to help each other. Ricketts wants to let the next GM make the decision on Ramirez? That rationale didn’t fly when it came to extending Oneri Fleita. Something could have been done.

We’ll never know the entirety of what transpired, but now we know that whatever has happened over the past two months with respect to Aramis Ramirez’s future, somebody dropped the ball. Badly.

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