Aramis Ramirez to test free agency

CHICAGO -- The agent for Aramis Ramirez said the Chicago Cubs third baseman will declare for free agency after this season and opt out of the remaining year on his contract.

Agent Paul Kinzer met with interim Cubs general manager Randy Bush on Wednesday, one day after Ramirez said he thought he played his last game at Wrigley Field as a member of the Cubs.

"Randy and I had a great conversation about Aramis," Kinzer told ESPNChicago.com. "We also talked about the other players I represent [on the Cubs, including Carlos Marmol, Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro].

"I let Randy and [chairman] Tom Ricketts know that we're going to test the free agent market. I also told them the Cubs would be on our short list to return if they're interested in signing us."

Ricketts is in the process of searching for a new GM after dismissing Jim Hendry in July.

"Both Tom and Randy were receptive to our conversation, but they said any decision on the team going forward would have to be made by the new general manager," Kinzer said. "There's no doubt Aramis will be one of the top free agents to hit the market in November, and we'll be looking for a three- or four-year deal."

Free agency begins the day after the World Series, and Ramirez will look to cash in on a season in which he entered action Wednesday hitting .306 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs.

Interestingly, Ramirez's camp may save the Cubs money by declaring for free agency. If the team opted not to bring Ramirez back next season, it was on the hook for a $2 million buyout.

Ramirez wasn't in Wednesday's lineup, but before the game he reiterated that he doesn't want to be part of a rebuilding process with the Cubs.

"I'm not that kind of player anymore. I'm 33. I don't know how much longer I'm going to play," Ramirez said. "I know it's hard to win, but I want to compete. That's what I want to do."

Ramirez continued to maintain he wants to stay in Chicago, but only if improvement is imminent.

"We were the worst team in 2006, and in 2007 we went to the playoffs," he said. "So you can get better if you want to. But you have to go out and get some quality players. It's my priority to stay here, but they have to show me they want to be better."

Ramirez has played more consecutive seasons (eight-plus) with the Cubs than anyone on the roster other than pitcher Carlos Zambrano. He leads the Cubs in batting average (.306) and RBIs (92) and is one of two Cubs to have five seasons with at least 30 doubles and 25 home runs (Billy Williams).

Ramirez believes he has a few years left in his career.

"I think I can do it," Ramirez said. "I think I can play three more years. We'll look at my situation and see what happens."

Ramirez was acquired by the Cubs in July 2003 in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ramirez's best Cubs season came in 2006, when he batted .291 with 38 home runs and 119 RBIs.

If Ramirez does hit the open market, he figures to be at the top of the list among free-agent third basemen.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.