CHICAGO (CBS) — Less than four days after winning their first World Series championship in 108 years, the Cubs have made their first move of the offseason, declining a $12-million contract option for 15-game winner Jason Hammel in 2017.

The Cubs announced the move one day before the general managers’ meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. The decision makes Hammel a free agent for 2017.

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Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein issued the following statement:

“First, I want to thank Jason for all of his contributions in his almost three seasons as a Cub. He was an effective, reliable starter the entire time he was a Cub, and this year he was an integral part of one of the best rotations in club history. We would not have been in a position to win the World Series without Jason’s terrific performance during the regular season. Jason and his family have been outstanding members of our organization and our community, and we are proud of their time with and impact on the Cubs.

“While Jason is healthy and primed to have another effective season in 2017, we have decided to consider other internal and external options for our starting rotation next year. Our hope is that by giving a starting opportunity to some younger pitchers under multiple years of club control, we can unearth a starter who will help us not only in 2017 but also in 2018 and beyond.

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“When we agreed with Jason on this two-year contract back at the 2014 winter meetings, the option was included with the intent that it would be exercised if Jason was going to be a Cub in 2017. The intent was never to exercise the option and then trade Jason, so we will not consider that path. Instead, Jason will have the opportunity to enter free agency coming off an outstanding season and the ability to choose his next club. Meanwhile, the organization gains some flexibility and the opportunity to use a rotation spot to develop a younger, long-term starting pitcher.

“We wish the Hammels nothing but the absolute best going forward. We would certainly be open to Jason rejoining the organization in the future, but even if that never happens we will always consider him a Cub and be thankful for his role in delivering a World Series championship to the people of Chicago.”

Hammel, 34, was 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA and 144 strikeouts in the regular season. He didn’t pitch in the postseason.

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Hammel was Chicago’s No. 5 starter in 2016. His departure could signal that left-hander Mike Montgomery will get an opportunity to make the rotation. Montgomery filled a variety of roles this past season, as a spot starter, long reliever, left-handed specialist and — by the end of it — a go-to arm with games on the line, as he earned the save in Game 7 of the World Series.