Cubs

Its probably the end for Cubs, Ramirez

540347.jpg

Its probably the end for Cubs, Ramirez

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011Posted: 10:30 p.m. Updated: 11:30 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
Box Score Photo Gallery
READ: Samardzija, Russell closing out solid seasons
KAPLAN: The Cubs must have philosophy change
READ: Post-surgery, Wood will only pitch for Cubs
READ: What Ricketts wants out of next Cubs GM
Aramis Ramirez rarely shows emotion. If this is it, then there should be no hard feelings. Hes a businessman who understands that he may have played his final game in a Cubs uniform at Wrigley Field.

Probably, yeah, theres a good chance, Ramirez said after Tuesdays 5-1 loss to the Brewers. Right now, I dont know whats going to happen. But it looks like Im going to hit the market.

Those are the strongest words Ramirez has so far said about his future.

The third baseman left the game with a mild quad strain after his at-bat in the sixth inning. It sounded doubtful that hed be ready by Wednesday, when the Brewers will try to cut their magic number to clinch the division down to two.

The Cubs are a team in transition. Jim Hendry who has a strong relationship with Ramirez showed up at Wrigley Field on Tuesday to see a few old friends before the Cubs leave for their final road trip of the season.

If Hendry hadnt been fired, then its likely he would be negotiating an extension with Paul Kinzer, whose clients include Ramirez, Starlin Castro and Geovany Soto.

Ramirez has met with his agent this week in Chicago, but they havent heard anything yet from upper management or the Ricketts family. The Cubs hold a 16 million option for 2012, which Ramirez can void to become a free agent.

I dont know what they want to do, Ramirez said. We dont have a GM, so I dont know who you talk to. I think were ready to move on.

Ramirez, who will turn 34 next year, said he thinks he can play three or four more seasons. Hes made quite a salary drive by hitting .306 with 25 homers and 92 RBI, positioning himself to be the No. 1 third baseman on the market.

Ramirez had been playing through the quad injury. He doesnt intend to shut it down for the final seven games.

Im going to do my best to finish the season, he said. Hopefully Ill play in St. Louis or San Diego.

Ramirez took a below-market deal when he signed a five-year, 75 million deal after the 2006 season. He knew a big-market team would spend the money to compete, but now no one is quite sure what direction the franchise will take. His family is comfortable here, and his preference is to stay in Chicago.

Ive been saying that all along, Ramirez said. Thats no secret to anybody. But it doesnt look that way right now. At least we havent heard anything.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

1020_albert_almora.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki close the book on the 2017 season following Theo Epstein’s press conference, looking back at what will go down as the craziest calendar year in Cubs history from last November through the team’s loss in the NLCS this October.

Moving forward, where do guys like Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery fit? Will the Cubs re-sign Wade Davis or go after another proven closer? And how worried should fans be about the offense that completely disappeared in the postseason?

Take a listen below: