Two new executives joined the Chicago Cubs' front office on Tuesday. With their additions, it appears one of the franchise's mainstays of the past decade is on his way out.
Within minutes of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein introducing Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod as senior vice president/scouting and player development, Epstein clarified his thoughts on the team's future at third base. Aramis Ramirez, a veteran of eight seasons in Chicago, doesn't appear to be part of the plan.
"We certainly wish him well in the future," Epstein said of Ramirez, a free agent to-be. "I wouldn't rule anything out but I would say that given his position as the top free-agent third baseman it's certainly a likelihood that another team will make him a contract that appeals to him and we will be looking for different solutions. But to sit here at the onset of free agency and rule anything completely in or completely out I don't think is productive. I think reading the tea leaves it seems likely that he will be moving on and we will be looking for a new solution at third."
The Cubs opted to pick up a one-year, $16 million 2012 option on Ramirez's contract this week, but Ramirez's agent Paul Kinzer told ESPN Chicago the two-time All-Star would trigger his own opt-out clause. Kinzer said Ramirez is seeking a multi-year deal on the open market.
"We are very sorry that this era is coming to the end for Aramis and the Cubs," Kinzer told ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine on Monday. "He loves Chicago and the fans. They've been great to him, but at this point it's better that we check out the market and address free agency.
Compensation for free agents is based on a player composite of stats for the previous two years, compared to the rest of the league at that position. Due to a .241 batting average in 2010, Ramirez was classified as a Type B free agent. A Type A free agent would have brought the Cubs a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the draft.
Epstein was far less definitive about the team's plans for troubled starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano.
"I have had conversations with Barry Praver, Carlos' representative and those were enlightening," Epstein said. "I've sat down with a number of the guys who have been here working alongside Carlos during his Cubs career and that was also enlightening. I think now it's just a matter of processing the information, putting it together, following up with Carlos and seeing what's best for the Cubs. That's ultimately what is most important."
The Cubs placed Zambrano on the disqualified list after he left Atlanta's Turner Field during a game in August and said he was retiring, which he quickly recanted. Zambrano was later put on the active roster after a grievance was filed, but he didn't return to the Cubs' clubhouse to conclude the 2011 season.
Zambrano posted a 9-7 record and 4.82 ERA in 24 2011 starts.
Bruce Levine contributed to this report.