Other veterans could follow Ramirez out

CHICAGO -- This season could be the end of the line for more than just Aramis Ramirez in a Chicago Cubs uniform.

Fellow veterans such as Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena and Carlos Zambrano could join Ramirez, who said Wednesday he will enter the free agent market, on the way out of town.

"I went to the Cubs Convention in January because I knew this could be my last year here," Ramirez said. "I had never been to the Cubs Convention before so I did it for the fans and how much I appreciate how much they did for me."

Ramirez and his agent Paul Kinzer told ESPNChicago.com that they will test the free agent market after the season. Ramirez took in possibly his last Cub home game on the bench, nursing a strained right quad.

"I don't say it's a sad day, but it was different," Ramirez said. "The chances of coming back here don't look very good right now."

Pena signed a one-year, $10 million contract for 2011 and can become a free agent in November.

"Yes, it's true I have become emotionally attached to this city and the Cubs," Pena said. "That's the way I am. I've always put my heart and soul into the teams I play for. Some places are easier than others to do that."

Ramirez, Pena and Soriano have been the main run producers on the Cubs this season. Pena is unsure how the possible departure of Ramirez will impact his view of free agency.

"I think looking at the thing objectively maybe, maybe [Ramirez will affect his decision],". Pena said. "But the kid in me says what everyone else does has no impact on what my decision will be. I have a tendency to follow the kid in me rather than the analytical part."

As a free agent, Pena is in a very good situation for a lucrative long-term deal. Agent Scott Boras' plan is to hold Pena back until free agent first baseman Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder sign contracts. Pena will be the only other power-hitting first baseman on the market.

"Aramis is going to choose what's best for him," Pena said. "I'm going to choose what's best for me."

There will be some difficult choices for Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and his new general manager. They will have to decide whether they can absorb the contracts of Soriano and Zambrano. In order to trade them, the Cubs will have to eat a good majority of the $54 million owed to Soriano over the next three years. And the same case should be presented when they have to deal with Zambrano's one-year, $17,885,000 contract.

One thing is apparent: There is going to be a changing of the guard on the North Side in 2012.