Cubs are still first choice for third baseman Ramirez

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Third baseman
Aramis Ramirez hopes to stay with the Chicago Cubs.

Ramirez said Thursday that several teams have contacted his
agent to discuss his availability since he filed for free agency
this week.

"The Cubs are my first choice but I'm a free agent because I
had to give myself the opportunity," Ramirez said during an
interview with The Associated Press.

Ramirez had 28 homers and 121 RBI. He declined to exercise
player options worth $11.5 million next year and $11 million in
2008. If he had exercised those options, the Cubs would have gained
an $11 million team option for 2009.

"I don't feel that I'm taking a risk by becoming a free
agent," he said. "I don't know for how much I'm going to sign
[for] because I don't like to discuss figures, but it would have to
be more than the $11 million."

He would be willing to changes leagues.

"In either league, they play tough baseball, so it doesn't
matter to me," he said.