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Three-team blockbuster brewing

The Marlins and Pirates are both said to be haggling with the Red Sox over a prospect or two in a potential three-team blockbuster that would send embattled superstar Manny Ramirez to Florida in what could rank as the surprise blockbuster of the century. But while there's still some back and forth going on, people involved in the talks are still expressing optimism that the deal will eventually get done and that the $20 million player will go to the $22 million team.

The Red Sox have talked to other teams about Ramirez, but their talks appear to be centered on the Marlins now. People involved in the discussions say several combinations of players and teams are being discussed, but in just about all of them Ramirez would wind up with the Marlins. No deal has been agreed to yet, and it's still possible Ramirez could remain with the Red Sox, though it's now believed that the deal will be consummated close to Thursday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.

There's still work to be done in the Red Sox-Marlins part of the megadeal, but one swap that's on the table would send young outfielder Jeremy Hermida, power-hitting outfield prospect Mike Stanton and hard-throwing young pitcher Ryan Tucker from Florida to Boston for Ramirez. However, the Marlins are said to be trying to keep the highly-regarded Stanton out of the trade. Josh Willingham was discussed as a replacement for Hermida, but it appears Hermida would be the main player going in the first part of a potential deal.

In the most talked-about three-team scenario, Boston would send one or more of those players acquired from Florida to Pittsburgh for star outfielder Jason Bay, who would be a more palatable replacement for Ramirez than either Hermida or Willingham. Other combinations being discussed are believed include reliever John Grabow or perhaps even shortstop Jack Wilson. But Pittsburgh is said to be still trying to enhance its end of things, and Boston could wind up tying to substitute a different third team other than Pittsburgh.

Though the players haven't absolutely been agreed to, the Red Sox and Marlins felt good enough about things to have relayed their dealings to the commissioner's office, which needs to be aware if more than $1 million will change hands. Boston is expected to offset the bulk of the $7 million remaining on Ramirez's $20 million salary for 2008 by sending cash to cash-strapped Florida.

The Marlins' surprise entry into the Ramirez Sweepstakes was first reported Tuesday on SI.com.

If the deal is completed, Ramirez, a winter resident of Fort Lauderdale, would likely approve a deal to Florida once the $20 million team option for 2009 is denied. Ramirez has asked out of Boston, but as a 10-and-5 player, he has veto power over trades.

The Phillies and Dodgers have also been in the mix for Manny, but indications are that the talks are centered on Florida now. "The Marlins have the players. They can make it happen," one person familiar with the talks said.

The Phillies showed interest but may have reservations about how Ramirez would fit into an outfield without an obvious rightfielder and their offers have been said to be disappointing. The Dodgers apparently are willing to send Matt Kemp to Boston but they also appear to be on the sidelines now.

The Marlins have shocked baseball by remaining in the NL East, and they are clearly an organization capable of surprises. Their biggest trade ever was the one with Boston that sent superstar pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston for shortstop Hanley Ramirez and others.

Florida has drafted a lot of capable pitchers in recent years, and its system is well-stocked with talent. Baseball Prospectus first reported the possibility of Hermida going for Ramirez.

Baseball executives say the Red Sox are giving the impression they are trying hard to trade the unhappy slugger somewhere. "Boston is motivated," one competing executive said.

The Red Sox have suggested to a couple clubs that they'd be willing to pick up the $7 million remaining on Ramirez's $20 million 2008 salary, if the offer was right. Florida, with its baseball-low $22 million payroll, would be expected to receive such financial assistance.

While some have suggested the Red Sox will ultimately keep Ramirez because there's no way to replace his likely rest-of-2008 production, it's possible Boston may be at its breaking point. Ramirez just might have enhanced his chances for a deal by failing to hustle out a groundball Tuesday night at Fenway Park, inciting boos from the crowd.

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