Final year with Cubs for Lee, Ramirez?

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 02/23/2010, 10:43am

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Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, one of several veterans on the team in the final year of their contracts, looks prepared to finish out the year without a new contract.

Last year’s most productive hitter said he hasn’t talked to the team about an extension and that once the season starts he doesn’t want to, acknowledging this could be his final season with the Cubs.

“Could be. It’s crossed my mind,” said Lee, speaking this morning on his first day of spring training, “but I’m not going to approach them. I just want to go play.”

As for his willingness to negotiate an extension once the season starts, “I really haven’t thought about it that much, but probably not. I wouldn’t want it to be a distraction.”

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who has the right to opt out of his contract at the end of the season and give up a guaranteed year and $16.6 million beyond that, said, “I don’t know about that yet. We’ll talk about that after this year. We’ll see.”

Ramirez, who missed two months last year because of a badly separated shoulder, declared the shoulder sound and said, “I’m ready to go 100 percent. I went through a lot of work on it all off-season.”

Lee, who had three flare-ups of a bulging disk in his neck, said he got therapy in the offseason and that the neck “feels good. I’m hoping it stays that way.”

Other morning notes:

–Phenom of the moment Starlin Castro also showed on time today in anticipation of first full-squad workouts, making everybody present and accounted for.

–The Ricketts family is in the house, addressing the team as I type before the scheduled workout. We expect a few minutes with Tom and his siblings a little later.

–Both Ramirez and Lee said the division has improved and acknowledged lowered expectations for this team. “There isn’t any pressure,” Ramirez said. “This year we aren’t even the favorites in the division. Nothing wrong with that. We know we have a good team. You’ve just got to believe in yourselves.”