’s Jon Heyman reports there’s an increased likelihood Manny Ramirez is headed to the NL East and in the words of WFAN’s Chris Carlin, “…to the wrong team”, as Boston’s spacey slugger might be Miami-bound as part of a three-way swap that also includes the Pirates.

The Red Sox approached Ramirez in advance of their negotiations, and got his OK. He signed off on the paperwork, contingent upon the two $20-million team options for 2009 and ’10 being dropped. The move will set the stage for Ramirez to become a free agent this winter, assuming a trade can be completed by the three teams.

In the talks, Ramirez would head to the Marlins with Jason Bay coming from Pittsburgh to Boston to replace him and the rebuilding Pirates getting younger players, perhaps including Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins. People involved in the discussions say several combinations of players were still being discussed, but the focus appears to be narrowed now to include just those two teams with Boston. It’s still possible Ramirez could remain with the Red Sox, though it’s now believed more likely than not that a deal will be consummated close to today’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.

In one oft-discussed arrangement on the table, the Marlins would surrender Hermida, power-hitting outfield prospect Mike Stanton and hard-throwing young pitcher Ryan Tucker. However, the Marlins were said to be trying to keep the highly regarded Stanton out of the trade and the prospects could change. Josh Willingham was discussed as a replacement for Hermida at one time, but Willingham was determined to have a medical issue and it appears Hermida would be the main player leaving Florida.

It would appear Theo Epstein and Boston ownership have determined that Jason Bay is a better option for the final two months of the ’08 season than Manny Ramirez taking 6 seconds to go from home to first base.  Manny’s done some remarkable things during his career, but none more impressive than forcing a franchise gunning for their first repeat championship since 1916 to accept a lesser player in return, right in the middle of a pennant race.

It is also hard to remain unimpressed with Larry Beinfest, who determined last spring that he preferred not to pay $20 million a year for the allegedly moody Miguel Cabrera.  Instead, Beinfest’s Marlins could be on the brink of acquiring a power hitter with Hall Of Fame credentials, without paying even a portion of that player’s gigantic salary.  If the Fish win a World Series with a lineup that includes Annibal Sanchez along with Hanley & Manny Ramirez, does Theo get a playoff share?

(UPDATE : Gammons says this isn’t happening, supposedly the Marlins want an additional $2 million on top of Ramirez’ remaining ’08 salary.  Would you trade Manny Ramirez, two minor leaguers and $9 million for Jason Bay?)