Aramis Ramirez open to Cubs return

CHICAGO -- With Theo Epstein in place as president of baseball operations, third baseman Aramis Ramirez said he is open to returning to the Chicago Cubs next season.

"I'm really happy the Cubs have brought in Theo Epstein to run the team," Ramirez told ESPNChicago by phone from his home in the Dominican Republic. "Now that the Cubs have a new leader with a new outlook, I'd certainly listen to them about remaining with the team."

Ramirez told ESPNChicago in September that since the Cubs weren't prepared to offer an extension, he would decline his player option and become a free agent while seeking a multiyear contract.

After Ramirez's agent Paul Kinzer met with interim general manager Randy Bush and team chairman Tom Ricketts on Sept. 21, Ramirez said he didn't want to be part of a rebuilding plan.

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

Ramirez said he believes the Cubs could turn it around quickly if they wanted to.

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

Kinzer said having a new baseball boss in place changes Ramirez's outlook.

"At the time they said they wouldn't be able to address Aramis' free agency because that would be the new general manager's decision," Kinzer said. "Now that Theo's in place, that changes everything for us. We'd love to talk to him about staying in Chicago. Aramis has said all along that staying with the Cubs was his priority and No. 1 choice. Hopefully we'll be able to get something done with Theo and his new group of baseball people when they are in place."

The Cubs have an option on Ramirez at $16 million for 2012. If the Cubs choose to decline the option they must pay a him a $2 million buyout. Ramirez also holds a player option in which he can decline the contract and declare free agency.

Ramirez, who batted .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs this season, completed a five-year, $75 million contract in 2011, his ninth season with the Cubs. He was originally traded to the Cubs in July of 2003 by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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