After a year of speculation and flip-flopping, it looks as though we finally have the answer: The Chicago Cubs' Aramis Ramirez is ready to move on.
The Cubs and Ramirez have a mutual $16 million option for the 2012 season.
Last night, the Cubs announced that they will exercise that option. This morning, Cubs.com reported that Ramirez will not.
Ramirez has had mixed feelings about returning to the Cubs. During the 2011 season, Ramirez continually stated that he would not waive his no-trade clause—until last July.
"That's not a secret; everybody knows [I want to stay]," Ramirez told ESPN. "But if they're looking to rebuild, I can't fit in, so we'll see."
He then banged the "I want to be part of a team that is ready to win" drum until the trade deadline.
Recently, the hiring of Theo Epstein seemed to change his perspective.
"I'm really happy the Cubs have brought in Theo Epstein to run the team," Ramirez told ESPN. "Now that the Cubs have a new leader with a new outlook, I'd certainly listen to them about remaining with the team."
Whether Ramirez truly wants to remain a Cub is yet to be seen. One thing is certain: He is definitely increasing his negotiating position with the Cubs by entering free agency.
Ramirez was the best-hitting everyday third baseman in MLB last season, putting up .306 with 25 HR and 92 RBIs.
At 33, Ramirez is looking for what will likely be his last multi-year deal. In a free agency year devoid of any real options at third base, Ramirez should have no trouble finding it.
The only question that remains is whether the Cubs will beat what he's offered. Then, we'll see if winning is as important to Ramirez as he says it is.
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