12/07/11 9:35 PM EST
Pena, Aramis decline arbitration with Cubs
Epstein says it's a priority to re-sign free agent Wood
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The deadline for players to decide whether to accept was 10:59 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Both Pena and Ramirez are Type B free agents, and if they sign with other teams, as expected, the Cubs will receive a compensatory Draft pick between the first and second rounds.
"In Ramirez's case, there was an open exchange early that we were going to move on in a different direction and go a little bit younger at that position, and he was looking for a big multiyear deal," said Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations. "That's not a surprise at all. We're happy to get a Draft pick.
"In Pena's case, great guy, great teammate, one of the better left-handed bats in the market and the best defensive first baseman available for any team," Epstein said of the lefty, who batted .225 with 28 homers and 80 RBIs this season. "He's a really good player, and we'll continue to have a dialogue and see if there's a fit. We'll keep talking. He'll be missed if he does leave."
Ramirez may not go too far from Chicago. He is considering the Brewers as well as the Angels. There also is a third team, but Milwaukee's advantage is that he could stay in the National League Central. Ramirez, who has met with both Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Angels manager Mike Scioscia, has made it clear he wants to play for a contender.
Ramirez, 33, won his first Silver Slugger Award this season, batting .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs, and is considered the top free-agent third baseman available.
Kerry Wood also is a Type B free agent, but the Cubs did not offer arbitration to the right-hander. They are expected to try to re-sign the reliever. Epstein said he met this week at the Hilton Anatole with SFX, which represents Wood, and they planned to continue talks in Chicago.
"There's no rush [to sign him], but it's a priority," Epstein said. "He's an important guy for a lot of reasons. Our bullpen looks a lot better with him in it. So does our clubhouse."
The Cubs did not offer arbitration to four other unranked free agents for whom no compensation applies, according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That group includes John Grabow, Reed Johnson, Ramon Ortiz and Rodrigo Lopez.
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.