Aramis Ramirez exercises $14.6 million option for 2011

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For a brief moment Aramis Ramirez dropped some hints about possibly declining his $14.6 million player option for 2011, but presumably his agent (or really anyone with a functional brain) took him aside and said something like, “Uh, you just had your worst season since 2002, maybe take the money.”

Ramirez made it official today, exercising the $14.6 million option for 2011 while also forcing the Cubs to either pay him $16 million or a $2 million buyout in 2012. In other words, by exercising his option Ramirez guarantees himself another $16.6 million and also delays free agency by a year to potentially recoup some of the value he’s lost.

He’s obviously never going to get another contract like the five-year, $75 million deal the Cubs gave him in November of 2006, but if Ramirez returns to his pre-2010 levels he’s definitely capable of securing a multi-year deal for a ton of money next winter. In his first six full seasons in Chicago he hit .303/.368/.551 with an average of 35 homers and 115 RBIs per 150 games, and after a horrendous first half this year he quietly hit .276/.321/.526 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs in the second half.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.