Ramirez opts for free agency

Ramirez opts for free agency

CHICAGO -- Aramis Ramirez was among 39 Major Leaguers who filed for free agency on Monday, but that doesn't mean the third baseman is leaving the Cubs.

Ramirez exercised an opt-out clause in his contract, a procedural move that gives him more leverage in negotiations.

Ramirez, 28, hit .291 this season and set career highs with 38 homers and 119 RBIs. He overcame a .239 start in the first two months of the season.

In April 2005, Ramirez signed a four-year, $42 million contract with an option for a fifth year at $11 million. At the time, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Ramirez had "made it clear he wants to be here and he wants to be here long-term."

Though the contract included an option to file for free agency after the 2006 season, Ramirez said at the time he didn't expect to exercise it, adding, "I want to be a Cub for the rest of my life."

But business is business. Hendry is in negotiations with Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer. The Cubs retain exclusive negotiating rights until the free agent signing period begins Nov. 11.

Both the Angels and Dodgers are expected to pursue Ramirez if he becomes available. Kinzer told the Chicago Tribune that just because the third baseman exercised the clause, it doesn't mean Ramirez is finished with the Cubs.

"Chicago is still his No. 1 option," Kinzer told the Tribune. "But if it goes that far, we'll listen to other teams."

The Cubs also declined to pick up Kerry Wood's $13.5 million option, and the pitcher filed for free agency. The team is expected to re-sign Wood to an incentive-loaded deal. He is rehabbing from a partial tear in his right rotator cuff.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.