Aramis Ramirez's future with the Chicago Cubs is one that has ..."/> Aramis Ramirez's future with the Chicago Cubs is one that has ..."/>

Aramis Ramirez Confirms He Will Test Free Agency

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Aramis Ramirez‘s future with the Chicago Cubs is one that has been heavily discussed throughout the 2011 season. Going into the season, it was looking likely that Ramirez was entering his final season as a member of the Cubs’ organization. Ramirez’s early season production all but confirmed that belief as the Cubs third baseman only had 2 home runs and 19 RBIs after the first two months of the season. But as the Cubs began to fall lower and lower in the standings, Ramirez’s bat grew louder and louder.

Now, Ramirez is sitting in position where he could be the top free agent third baseman on the market this winter. Ramirez is hitting .306/.359/.512 this season to go along with 25 home runs and 91 RBIs. There is an off chance that Ramirez could still finish the season with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, though, that is not a likely scenario. Regardless, Ramirez has put himself in position where he could land yet another big contract from a team.

The Cubs and Ramirez will have to soon decide on the one year. $16 million team/player option that is in Ramirez’s contract for the 2012 season. Though, it would appear that both sides are looking to decline the option. While the final decision will be made by the new general manager, the expectation is that the Cubs will decline the option and pay the $2 million buyout of the 2012 season. Even if the Cubs decided to pick up the option, it is likely that Ramirez would still decline the option and test the free agent waters.

In a conversation with ESPN Chicago, Ramirez told Bruce Levine that he is looking for a multi-year deal.

"“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.” ESPN Chicago"

This will likely be the reason why Ramirez is not going to return to the Cubs next season. At the age of 33, Ramirez does not have too many season ahead of him where he will be able to produce at a high-caliber level. In fact, recent history has suggested that once hitters hit there mid-30s, specifically 33 and beyond, their production begins to decline at a steady pace. Ramirez has already proven that he is an injury risk, and at times inconsistent, which would why giving the third baseman a contract as he approaches his late 30s is not a wise decision. Especially when the Cubs are in position that they are in.

While the Cubs will likely spend like a big market team, chairman Tom Ricketts has admitted that his goal is for the Cubs to build from within the organization. The Cubs have a handful of players that can replace Ramirez at the third base position in 2012. Ideally, the Cubs would want Josh Vitters to be ready for the start of the 2012 season. However, barring an incredible off-season workout regime and impressive spring training, Vitters likely will not be ready until 2 or 3 months into the season. Once Vitters is ready, there is a strong chance that he will take over the third base position for the Cubs, though, a move to first base has not been ruled out either. Besides Vitters, the Cubs could go with D.J. LeMahieu, Ryan Flaherty, or even Blake DeWitt. Both LeMahieu and Flaherty deserve strong consideration to be the Cubs’ starting third baseman in 2012. However, a the more likely scenario would have Flaherty or LeMahieu platooning at the third base position with DeWitt.

As I mentioned above, the final decision will come from the new general manager on whether or not to bring Ramirez back next season. Before Ramirez and his agent Paul Kinzer found out that Jim Hendry had been fired, they both believed that the two sides had an understanding that Ramirez would return in 2012. Though, the two sides could not have been in serious contract negotiations, as it would not make sense for Hendry to do so knowing that he has already been fired. Despite the perceived progress that Kinzer and Ramirez thought they made with Hendry, the two still hope that Ramirez can remain a Cub.

"“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. ESPN Chicago"

My only hope is that the next general manager of the Cubs is someone that has followed the team in recent season. If they are, then the decision should be an easy one. Ramirez has worn out his welcome with the Cubs, and is part of the same nucleus of players that failed in the post-season in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The firing of Hendry was first step to a culture, now the new general manager has to follow up and close the book on the Cubs’ teams of the past decade. Which would signal the end of Carlos Zambrano‘s, Alfonso Soriano‘s, and Aramis Ramirez’s time with the Cubs.