The Brewers continued their Halloween transactional spectacular by announcing they have exercised their end of Aramis Ramirez's $14 million mutual option for 2015. This does not mean that Aramis Ramirez is returning for 2015. Not yet anyway. Ramirez now has 3 days to decide if he wants to pick up his end of the option or decline.
If Aramis Ramirez does pick up his end of the mutual option then he will indeed return next year for the $14 million price tag. If Ramirez decides not to pick up his end of the mutual option, then he becomes a free agent. There was a $4 million buyout clause in the deal, but the Brewers would only have had to pay that had they decided to decline the option. Now that they have exercised their end, if Ramirez declines the Brewers owe him nothing.
Personally, I expect Ramirez to decline his end of the option and become a free agent. If that does indeed happen that does not mean he won't return next year. It's entirely possible, maybe even likely, he and the Brewers work out a 2 year deal for some annual average value less than the $14 million option.
One other interesting wrinkle is the qualifying offer. Teams may extend a qualifying offer to departing free agents. If that player accepts then he returns for on a one year contract. This year the qualifying offer is worth $15.3 million. If that free agent declines the offer he enters free agency with draft pick compensation attached. That means whichever club signs him has to forfeit their highest draft pick (Expect for the first 10 picks of the draft which are protected. That club would then forfeit their next highest pick). Then the team that originally extended the qualifying offer would get a sandwich pick at the end of the first round. I only wish there was a way to make all of this more complicated.
It's going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out. Ramirez is getting older but he still provides enough value that it would make sense to bring him back, depending on the contract of course. I'm not sure if the Brewers will extend a qualifying offer if it even gets to that point. Ultimately I think the two sides will agree to a 2 year extension of some sort. Maybe worth between $20-$26 million.