Chicago Cubs slugger Aramis Ramirez exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and filed for free agency Monday, and the third baseman is expected to be pursued aggressively by the Angels and Dodgers.
“He knows those teams will be heavily involved, and they’re both good teams,” said Paul Kinzer, Ramirez’s agent. “We haven’t talked to them yet, but we know they’ll both have strong interest.”
In choosing to become a free agent, Ramirez, who batted .304 over the last three seasons, averaging 35 home runs and 104 runs batted in per season, voided a contract with the Cubs that guaranteed him $22.5 million over the next two years and included an $11-million option for 2009.
But with so many teams -- especially the big-market Angels and Dodgers -- looking for power bats this winter, Kinzer is confident Ramirez will command a contract in the five- or six-year range. A new deal could net the 28-year-old from the Dominican Republic as much as $14 million a year.
“His first choice is to stay in Chicago, but if we can’t get something done there, I expect him to be as much in demand as any free agent out there,” Kinzer said. “He loves Chicago, but he’s opening up more and more” to the idea of playing elsewhere.
The Cubs have exchanged contract proposals with Kinzer and have exclusive negotiating rights to Ramirez until Nov. 12, at which point other teams can submit financial offers. Kinzer said it’s possible Ramirez could make recruiting trips to several cities in November before settling on a contract.
The Angels, who finished four games behind Oakland in the American League West, are in desperate need of a power bat to boost their sagging offense and protect slugger Vladimir Guerrero, and owner Arte Moreno in September promised the team would make a “major” move this winter.
Though the Angels could pursue trades for Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells, Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez if he becomes available, several industry sources said in October that Ramirez would be the team’s top target if he became a free agent.
Ramirez, an above-average defensive player, would fill a hole at third base for the Angels and could cost considerably less than free-agent slugger Alfonso Soriano, who plays two positions at which the Angels appear set -- left field (Garret Anderson and Juan Rivera) and second base (Howie Kendrick).
“He’s a guy we’re going to look at,” Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman said of Ramirez. “There are a lot of people we’re looking at, and we’re not limited to one guy. The first question we’ll ask is, are you interested in us?”
The Dodgers would like to add a 35-homer threat to their lineup and could look to upgrade at third base, a position that Wilson Betemit and touted prospect Andy LaRoche are expected to compete for next spring. Bill Mueller is under contract for $4.5 million next season, but the veteran third baseman could retire because of a serious knee injury that limited him to 32 games in 2006.
Angels pitching coach Bud Black will interview for the San Diego managerial job Wednesday, Padres General Manager Kevin Towers said. Because Black lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe and can get to San Diego on short notice, Towers plans to wait until Wednesday morning to seek permission from the Angels to interview him.
Black interviewed for the San Francisco job that was filled by former Padres manager Bruce Bochy, and he is tentatively scheduled to interview for the Oakland Athletics job next week.
The Padres also plan to interview St. Louis third base coach Jose Oquendo and Japan Series championship Manager Trey Hillman this week. A’s third base coach Ron Washington also is expected to interview.
Hillman and Washington are also finalists, along with A’s bench coach Bob Geren, Colorado bench coach Jamie Quirk and former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser for the Oakland job, which opened when Ken Macha was fired.
New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado had surgery for tennis elbow on his left arm, his second operation in eight days. Delgado’s right wrist was operated on Oct. 23 because of carpal tunnel syndrome. The Mets said they expect he will be ready for spring training. ... The Chicago White Sox exercised 2007 contract options for left-hander Mark Buehrle ($9.5 million), right fielder Jermaine Dye ($6.75 million) and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi ($3.25 million), and declined a $3.65-million option on right-handed reliever Dustin Hermanson, who gets a $500,000 buyout. Dye, who hit .315 with a team-leading 44 homers and 120 RBIs this year, could be in line for a contract extension. ... The Boston Red Sox exercised their $4-million 2007 option on knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.