I’ll spare you the labored setup where I talk about the tortured back-and-forth that was Aramis Ramirez’s 2011 with the Chicago Cubs. Suffice it to say: at times he wanted to stay with the Cubs forever, and at other times he was all too happy to move on.

Now that the Chicago Cubs have brought in executive superstar, Theo Epstein, Ramirez – who’d recently said, through his agent, that he expects to explore free agency – may want to be a Cub in 2012.

“I’m really happy the Cubs have brought in Theo Epstein to run the team,” Ramirez told ESPNChicago. “Now that the Cubs have a new leader with a new outlook, I’d certainly listen to them about remaining with the team.”

Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, added: “At the time they said they wouldn’t be able to address Aramis’ free agency because that would be the new general manager’s decision. Now that Theo’s in place, that changes everything for us. We’d love to talk to him about staying in Chicago. Aramis has said all along that staying with the Cubs was his priority and No. 1 choice. Hopefully we’ll be able to get something done with Theo and his new group of baseball people when they are in place.”

While that may seem like a change in his recent stance, is it really? The Cubs hold a 2012 option on Ramirez for $16 million (with a $2 million buyout), but Ramirez can void his contract if the option is exercised. So, when Ramirez’s agent said Ramirez was going to test free agency, it was a threat he could actually enforce. Does now saying he’d “listen to them about remaining with the team” mean he’d no longer void his contract?

I’m skeptical. In a vacuum, it certainly makes picking up Ramirez’s option – assuming the Cubs don’t actually want Ramirez back in 2012 – more risky. If Ramirez is indeed open to staying with the Cubs, there’s a chance he wouldn’t void the contract, instead pocketing his $16 million. But, by the same token, if Epstein tells Ramirez, “we’re picking up your option, but we’re not going to negotiate an extension – it’s 2012, and that’s it,” would Ramirez really play out 2012 on a one-year deal when he could have received a three-year deal on the open market? As I said: I’m skeptical.

Maybe I’m a bit hard on Ramirez when it comes to the whole waffling thing. After all, he’s running out of playing years, and is just trying to get the most money for his services in the time he has left. But it seems to me, saying publicly that he wants to stay with the Cubs on a multi-year deal, otherwise he wants to leave, is neither difficult, nor inconsistent with his desire for the most money/longest deal. Just play it a little more straight.

Either way, the decision is coming soon. The Cubs will have until five days after the World Series to pick up, or buy out, Ramirez’s option. He will then decide whether to stick with the Cubs, or head to free agency.

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