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Aramis Ramirez, agent say slugger will test free agency if Cubs pick up option

The Cubs longtime third baseman Aramis Ramirez appear certapart ways after season. | Getty Images

The Cubs and longtime third baseman Aramis Ramirez appear certain to part ways after the season. | Getty Images

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:18AM

A culture change, a youth movement or rebuilding — call it what you want — but the Cubs might be facing a heavy dose of it into next season whether the new general manager wants it or not.

One day after third baseman Aramis Ramirez predicted he had played his last home game for the Cubs, his agent said Wednesday the team’s most productive hitter for the last decade will exercise his right to elect free agency if the Cubs pick up his contract option for 2012.

And several other Cubs in key roles this season were left wondering whether the final home game of the season was their last at Wrigley Field in Cubs uniforms.

‘‘It’s definitely crossed my mind,’’ said pending free-agent slugger Carlos Pena, who acknowledged Ramirez’s status might affect his own. ‘‘And not just thinking about it, but with a sinking feeling in my stomach .  .  . because I’ve become emotionally attached to the city and to the Cubs.’’

It was a somber reality that hung over a picturesque 2011 home finale, even as the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-1 behind Matt Garza’s complete game to stall the Brewers’ drive toward the playoffs and finish only their third winning homestand of the season.

‘‘I don’t say sad, but it’s different, knowing I probably won’t come back here anymore,’’ said Ramirez, who was out Wednesday after aggravating a quadriceps injury Tuesday.

Agent Paul Kinzer sounded
decisive about Ramirez’s intentions after meeting briefly with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and separately, at greater length, with interim GM Randy Bush.

‘‘We are not taking the option,’’ Kinzer said. ‘‘They know that. We know that.’’

Bush declined comment through a team spokesman.

The Cubs have a $16 million option for 2012 on Ramirez’s contract. If they exercise it, Ramirez has the right to opt out and become a free agent.

Ramirez and Kinzer have made it clear for months that they want a multiyear deal, be it in a renegotiation with the Cubs or in free agency.

The uncertainty surrounding the timeline of the Cubs’ GM search and the uncertainty of their subsequent direction are behind the decision, said Kinzer, who stressed the Cubs will remain on Ramirez’s short list if the team wants to start talking about a multiyear deal.

Ramirez, whose status for the last six games is questionable, is hitting .306 with 25 home runs and a team-leading 92 RBI.

‘‘Everything was friendly,’’ Kinzer said of the meetings. ‘‘They have to get a GM in place, and they don’t want to handcuff a GM and re-sign Aramis [before that]. He loves the Cubs. .  .  . But it looks like we’ll test the market.

‘‘I just told them we’re there whenever they want to talk, even if we’re already fielding offers and dealing with other teams. The door’s still open. [But re-signing] is not the slam dunk it was six months ago.’’

Kinzer and Ramirez have strong relationships with former GM Jim Hendry, whose firing this summer has put Ramirez, 33, on the brink of free agency for the first time.

Kinzer said he expects the Cubs to exercise the option, which would assure them of draft-pick compensation if another team signs Ramirez. Otherwise, the Cubs can buy out the option for $2 million.

Kinzer said he wasn’t given an indication about whether ownership or the front office considered Ramirez an option for next season.

Kinzer also represents closer Carlos Marmol, catcher Geovany Soto, shortstop Starlin Castro and reliever John Grabow. He said he discussed all his Cubs clients with Bush, but they primarily talked about Ramirez.

‘‘They get a new GM, and we’ll sit down with him and feel where he’s at [then],’’ Kinzer said. ‘‘Randy’s
doing a great job communicating, but he won’t be the one putting
together the team this winter.’’

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