Aramis Ramirez declines mutual option, becomes free agent

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Desiring another multiyear contract at age 33, Aramis Ramirez declined his half of a mutual option to remain with the Cubs on Sunday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Ramirez would have made $16 million under the terms of the option. His decision means the Cubs are off the hook for a $2 million buyout they would have had to pay had they declined their half of the option. It also puts them in position to recoup two draft picks this winter, as Ramirez is unlikely to accept an arbitration offer.

Ramirez rebounded from a poor 2010 to hit .306/.361/.510 with 26 homers and 93 RBI in 565 at-bats last season. He rates as the top third baseman in a weak free agent class also set to include Wilson Betemit, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mark DeRosa and a question mark in Casey Blake.

The Angels, Rockies, Tigers, Brewers, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Indians and Marlins are among the teams that could consider adding a third baseman this winter.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.