So Long, Aramis Ramirez, And Thanks For The Memories

Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs runs to home plate where he is greeted by teammates after Ramirez hit a two-run, walk-off home run to beat the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field June 29, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Brewers 6-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The expected has occurred; the Cubs exercised the $16 million option on Aramis Ramirez's contract for 2012, but Ramirez declined the option:

However, a source said Ramirez has told the Cubs he will decline the option and explore free agency. If Ramirez does that, the Cubs will not have to pay him the $2 million buyout.

Ramirez, 33, has said he would stay with the Cubs if they gave him a multiyear deal. His last contract with the team was a five-year, $75 million package, which he signed in 2007, that included a $14.6 million player option for '11 and a mutual option for the '12 season.

I suppose it's possible that the Cubs and Ramirez could come to an agreement on some sort of multiyear deal that would satisfy both parties (to me, that would be no more than two years with a club option for a third), but it seems likely that the Cubs will begin 2012 with a different starting 3B than Ramirez for the first time since 2003, and get draft pick compensation when he signs with another team.

You probably remember the game in which Ramirez hit a walkoff home run against the Brewers on June 29, 2007; that's the one depicted in the photo at the top of this post. It was an incredible comeback after going down 5-0 to the then-first place Brewers and, though still three months from the end of the season, it helped keep the Cubs hot and eventually, they overcame the deficit and won the NL Central.

It was also one of the signature moments, if not the signature moment in Ramirez's career. Complain all you want about him -- and many here still do -- he was an offensive force in the middle of the Cubs' lineup for the better part of a decade. If, indeed, he departs for another team (the Marlins have been rumored to be interested), he leaves the Cubs having hit .294/.356/.531 over eight-plus seasons. The .531 SLG is third on the all-time team list, behind only Hack Wilson and Sammy Sosa; the .887 OPS is fifth, behind Wilson, Sosa, Ray Grimes (yeah, I also said, "Who?") and Derrek Lee. He hit 239 home runs as a Cub, sixth on the team list (Sosa, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg are ahead of him).

It will be difficult to replace that kind of production. Personally, I think I'd take him back, if he would agree to that kind of two-year-with-a-team-option contract at somewhat less than the $16 million he was due to make.

If he doesn't want that, then, as the headline says... thanks for the memories, Aramis, and we move on.

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