Brewers fan favorite Jon Heyman reported today that the Brewers were intending to exercise Aramirs Ramirez's $14 million option for 2015. But things aren't so simple and soon after Heyman published his article the Brewers beat reporters refuted those claims. Todd Rosiak says Melvin shot down the report. Adam McCalvy said Doug Melvin was even taken aback and that he and owner Mark Attanasio haven't even talked the contract yet.
Even if it's true the Brewers are intending to exercise Ramirez's option, things aren't that simple. Nowhere in that article did Heyman make mention that the option for 2015 is a mutual option (since updated). That means Ramirez himself would have to agree to exercise the option. If he doesn't, then he becomes a free agent. I'm not sure if that means the Brewers are off the hook for the $4 million buyout or if they'd still owe it to him (UPDATE: Adam McCalvy confirms the Brewers would not have to pay the buyout if they exercise their part of the option and Ramirez is the one to decline).
There are still other options if one side declines and the Brewers want Ramriez to return. They could extend him a qualifying offer which will be a one year deal for roughly $14 million.
Again, I'm not sure if they'd still owe him that $4 million buyout. If they did, they probably wouldn't want to take the chance they'd have to pay him $18 million next year. However, the buyout is paid over 2 years in $2 million installments. If the Brewers think he's definitely going to decline it would make tons of sense to make the qualifying offer. They'd get a draft pick if he went somewhere else and they'd have some leverage if he can't find a home in free agency.
If one side declines the option there is still the chance the Brewers and Ramirez could agree on a different deal. They could even completely restructure Ramire'z current deal so that the Brewers don't have to pay the buyout. Perhaps a two year deal or another 1 year deal with an option. A two year deal for less AAV than $14 million could make sense for both side. Ramirez gets the certainty of two more years of playing time. The Brewers would save some money. They also get his services for 2016 when they still don't have a third baseman coming up from the minors. It's also less of a commitment than a 5 year deal to someone like Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval.
We'll learn more in the offseason when real reports by responsible journalists who verify their sources' claims start coming out.