The Cubs late Sunday exercised their $16 million club option on third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The option was a mutual one, meaning Ramirez had until 10:59 Tuesday night to pick up his half or become a free agent. But Ramirez, as expected, declined his half of the option and chose free agency. He's looking for a multiyear deal, and we'll see if the Cubs have an appetite to offer him one.
UPDATE: Monday afternoon, the Cubs said they have declined the $3 million option on reliever Jeff Samardzija for next year. Samardzija is not yet arbitration eligible, so the Cubs can renew his salary at up to a 20 percent cut (if they so choose) for next season.
Ramirez said repeatedly late in the season that his days as a Cub likely were over, as he wanted to test the free-agent market and obtain a multiyear deal. However, Ramirez reportedly may have softened that stance recently, citing the Cubs' new management team. One might cynically suggest that Ramirez might know the market might not provide something as favorable to him as the final year of his Cubs' deal. But in the end, he opted out.
After a slow start this year, Ramirez ended up with a nice year, going .306/.361/.510 with 26 homers and 93 RBI. Ramirez hit only 2 home runs over the first two months of the season before picking it up in June, with 8.
The Cubs don't have a major-league ready third baseman in their system, even though former No. 1 draft pick Josh Vitters had a better year in the minor leagues and has done well in the Arizona Fall League.
Also, the Cubs are expected to introduce Jed Hoyer as their new GM Tuesday, along with scouting and player development chief Jason McLeod. We'll be there for all of it.