The Cubs exercised their $16MM option on Aramis Ramirez, but the slugging third baseman exercised a contractual right to void the option and forfeit his $2MM buyout, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter).
Ramirez, a projected Type B free agent, will explore the free agent market following a season in which he belted 26 homers and posted a .306/.361/.510 triple slash line. With the exception of 2009, Ramirez has hit 25 or more home runs every year since 2003. Given the thin market for free agent third basemen, Ramirez should have no problem securing a multiyear deal that will guarantee him more than the $16MM he'd have earned in 2012.
Earlier in October, Ramirez made it clear he would need a multiyear commitment to return to the Cubs, so it's not surprising to see him decline the opportunity to return on a one-year deal. Exercising the option was the first transaction for Theo Epstein as president of the Cubs, and Jed Hoyer's first as the team's GM. Assuming the Cubs later offer Ramirez arbitration and he turns it down, they'll get a supplemental draft pick if he signs elsewhere.