CHICAGO -- Aramis Ramirez's agent met with Cubs interim general manager Randy Bush on Wednesday and told the team that the third baseman will test the free-agent market.
There is a mutual $16 million option for next season, and Ramirez has said he wants to stay with the Cubs, but also has indicated he wants a multiyear deal.
"The door is still open, but at this point, we'll explore free agency," agent Paul Kinzer told the Chicago Tribune. "If [the Cubs] want to make an offer, they'll be on his short list."
Kinzer said if the Cubs exercise the option, Ramirez will decline it.
"That's not going to happen," Kinzer said. "He's 33 and not looking for a one-year deal."
After Wednesday's game, Ramirez said he knew he would become a free agent.
"It looked that way, because of the situation in the front office," he said. "I knew it wasn't a good [possibility] because we don't have a GM, and we haven't heard from [the Cubs] the whole time. I knew nothing was going to come of it."
The Cubs dismissed Jim Hendry last month, and chairman Tom Ricketts has yet to name a new GM. If Ramirez is gone, then Wednesday was his last home game with the Cubs. He watched from the bench, nursing a strained quad.
What are the odds of him coming back to the Cubs?
"I don't know right now," Ramirez said. "Once I hit the market, I'll have a better idea of what's going on. The chances to come back here don't look real good right now."
If the Cubs are in rebuilding mode, then the chance of Ramirez returning is even slimmer.
"I can't be here for a rebuilding process," the third baseman said. "I'm not that kind of player. I'm 33, I don't know how much longer I want to be playing. I know it's hard to win, but you have to be able to compete, and that's what I want to do."
That said, Ramirez also feels he can play three to four more years. He said the Cubs were able to rebound from a 96-loss season in 2006 to win the National League Central in '07. The team went on a $300 million spending spree that offseason.
"We have to wait and see what the Cubs want to do first," Ramirez said about testing the market. "This is my priority to stay here. Like I said, they have to show me they're going to be better. That's the bottom line."
Castro moves to within one hit of 200
CHICAGO -- Starlin Castro said he was going to get his 200th hit at home, and he came up one hit short.
The Cubs shortstop went 2-for-3 with two walks, including one intentional pass, on Wednesday in the home finale against the Brewers and now leads the National League with 199 hits. Chicago won, 7-1.
"I tried to do it here, but two walks," Castro said. "I'll be ready for Friday in St. Louis."
The Cubs have six games remaining, beginning Friday against the Cardinals.
"I can't wait until he gets to 200, because it'll be a special moment for all of us," Carlos Pena said.
Castro doubled to lead off the first, but he was thrown out at third trying to stretch his hit. He hit an RBI single in the third and was intentionally walked in the fifth by Milwaukee starter Randy Wolf. Castro grounded out to end the sixth. He walked in the eighth, as well, and the crowd of 30,965 was on its feet for his at-bat, hoping to see the young infielder reach the milestone.
"I tried to do it here," Castro said.
He now has reached safely in 34 straight games, which ties the longest stretch by a Cubs shortstop, set by Woody English in 1929. Castro is the first Cubs player to reach safely in 34 in a row since Jerome Walton had a 43-game streak in 1989.
At 21, Castro is vying to become the youngest Cubs player to total 200 hits. Billy Herman had 206 hits in 1932, and Augie Galan had 203 hits in 1935. Both were 23 at the time.
Quade expects to be back with Cubs in 2012
CHICAGO -- Mike Quade didn't sound as if Wednesday might be his last home game as Cubs manager. He's already looking ahead to what he can do to make the team better in 2012.
The Cubs closed the home portion of the schedule Wednesday against the Brewers. The team entered the day with a 68-87 overall record, and Quade was asked if he thought it might be his last game at Wrigley Field with the team.
"Why would I? We're going to play today and I'm going to be back," Quade said. "That's the way I look at things. There's no other way to look at it. Why would I look at it any other way?"
The Cubs don't have a general manager, and the new person may want his own manager.
"There's nothing I can do about that," Quade said. "That's the way I look at things. I'm not going to wax nostalgic thinking, 'Oh, my God, what now?' I plan to be back and I plan to do a good job next year."
Quade has not talked to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about the future. The Cubs still have six games to play in St. Louis and San Diego, and Quade is focused on that.
"If they make a decision in a different direction, so be it," Quade said. "The question is, 'What do I think?' That's what I think."
Asked how he would grade himself as manager, Quade said he was "disappointed in the record."
"I'm not disappointed in myself at all," he said. "We didn't pitch as well as I'd hoped. I think our offense ends up being about what we thought. As I said numerous times, the game boils down to pitching, and when we struggle with starters, it's tough to overcome."
Quade does have a contract for 2012, but said he doesn't feel at ease because of that.
"I like doing this and I think I'm good at doing it, and that's the way I look at things," he said. "Whether I had a one-year deal or a two-year deal or a five-year deal, that's the way I feel."
He's hoping he'll get a chance to convince the new GM that he deserves to stay.
"There's so much speculation and nothing I can control," Quade said. "There's absolutely no reason for me to concern myself with anything but finishing as best we can and waiting to see what takes place."
The Cubs weren't favored to win the National League Central, but they also didn't expect to finish fourth in the division, including ranking last in fielding and at the bottom of the league in pitching. Who's to blame?
"I look at this as a variety of things, and no one escapes blame, and you understand that going in," Quade said. "But I also look at it as a realist and try to think about the things I could or couldn't control, whether it's the clubhouse or running the game. I evaluate it all.
"You sit here and take the blame -- that's what you do."
The only aspect of the team's performance he wasn't happy with was the poor defensive play.
"One disappointment, if I had one, that would be it," Quade said. "It wasn't for lack of work on it or concentration or emphasis, from the beginning of Spring Training."
Is managing the Cubs tougher than he expected?
"This year was, just because we had so much to deal with," Quade said. "The job with the media, with running the club, no. Big-market city, Major League Baseball, it's fine. We had a ton of stuff to deal with and then not having success. Not tougher, but it was a tough year. That's the way I am. I think all of us will be better for it. I'm happy with the way we're finishing."
Big Z's future with Cubs remains uncertain
CHICAGO -- One of the items on the next Cubs general manager's to-do list is to figure out what to do with Carlos Zambrano. The right-hander was placed on the disqualified list after his early exit Aug. 12 in Atlanta. However, he's still under contract for next season.
Could Zambrano return?
"I'm not calling the shots," Cubs manager Mike Quade said Wednesday. "I never say never to anything, and I think [Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts] is on record with what he said. That's out of my hands and the least of my worries. We need to finish strong and see what happens this winter."
Ricketts has said he didn't think Zambrano could return after walking out on the team. Zambrano served up five home runs to the Braves in that game, then was ejected because the umpire felt he was trying to intentionally hit Chipper Jones with a pitch. Zambrano packed his gear and told teammates he was retiring.
Zambrano finished with a 9-7 record and a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts. Did Quade want the right-hander back next year?
"I don't know," Quade said. "That's a tough question for me to answer. I'd like his arm back if he fit into the mix. It would be tough for him to come back, for me. If he did, then you deal with it. It would be tough."
Quad injury keeping Aramis out of lineup
CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez was not expected to play until Friday at the earliest, and he may be sidelined even longer because of a strained right quad he aggravated running to first base on Tuesday.
Ramirez had to come out of Tuesday's game after the sixth inning because of the injury, which has been bothering him for a while.
"This just didn't sneak up last night," Cubs manager Mike Quade said Wednesday.
The Cubs have Thursday off and will re-evaluate Ramirez when they open a three-game series Friday against the Cardinals.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.