According to multiple reports, last night, the Chicago Cubs exercised their half of third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s 2012 option for $16 million. Soon after, Ramirez informed the team that he intends to void the contract, as he is permitted to do under the terms of the option. The twin moves will save the Cubs $2 million – had they instead elected not to pick up Ramirez’s option, the team would have owed him a $2 million buy out.
Ramirez, through his agent, has said in recent weeks that he intended to test free agency, so picking up his option was a relatively low risk move by the Cubs. The worst case scenario had them “stuck” with Ramirez next year for $14 million ($16 million salary, but only a $14 million additional commitment, because the alternative was to pay Ramirez $2 million to go away).
Ramirez, 33, technically has until tomorrow to void the contract, but it is expected he will do so. The Cubs could explore extension talks with Ramirez, but it is just as likely that the Cubs are ready to move on. As the top free agent third baseman on the market, Ramirez seems likely to land a multiyear deal with another team – one in a better position to need an immediate impact like Ramirez, and more willing to pay him top dollar for another three years. The Cubs will be able to offer Ramirez arbitration, and pick up a draft pick (if he’s a Type B free agent, or two picks, if he’s a Type A – Ramirez is expected to be just short of the Type A cutoff when the final rankings are released in early November) if he signs elsewhere.
Assuming Ramirez walks, the Cubs will turn to the trade market and free agency to try and pick up a third baseman on the cheap, or will look to in-house options like Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, DJ LeMahieu, or Ryan Flaherty, among others. Ramirez’s defense will be easily replaced, but his offensive production – .306/.361/.510 with 26 homers, 93 RBI, and 35 doubles – will be hard to come by.
If Ramirez has indeed played his last game as a Cub, his time at third will be remembered as the best for the Cubs in three decades – he was the most productive at the spot since Ron Santo.