Among the most immediate impacts of the Cubs' sudden regime change could be any attempts to keep key veteran players, including Aramis Ramirez.

Ramirez, who could become a free agent whether or not the club picks up his 2012 option, was all but assured of returning next year — probably on a renegotiated extension — with Jim Hendry as general manager. But now he's expected to look at his free-agency options, his agent, Paul Kinzer, said.

''We've got to step back and look at everything,'' Kinzer said.

''At this point, it was pretty much a slam dunk [Ramirez would return]. It would have taken something serious for us to move on. We have to see what's going on there — not only with the GM, but with the manager and everything else.

''The Cubs are one of the best organizations in baseball — [farm director] Oneri Fleita .?.?. everybody —­ and it seemed like they fed off Jim's personality.''

Ramirez, one of the league's hottest hitters who drove in two more runs Sunday night for a team-leading 81, said he doesn't want to leave Chicago but is open to it, given the uncertainty.

''For him to leave would be a big deal,'' Kinzer said. ''I think he's probably going to at least look now and see what's out there.''

Ramirez, whose option is worth $16 million (with a $2 million buyout), said he wants to stay, ''But you want to win. That's the bottom line.''