Lumpy underachiever Sidney Ponson has emerged as a major piece in the O’s/Marlins trading puzzle writes the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Juan C. Rodriguez :

The teams have shifted to finding a landing spot for Orioles right-hander Sidney Ponson (above). Moving Ponson, who is due about $13.5 million through next season, is paramount to the Orioles absorbing Lowell and the $21 million he’s guaranteed through 2007.

One obstacle to moving Ponson is he has a 10-team, no-trade provision that includes the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After acquiring him, the Marlins reportedly were ready to send Ponson to Tampa Bay for reliever Trever Miller.

The foundation of a deal appears in place as long as the Marlins or Orioles find a taker for Ponson. The teams apparently were willing to pick up all but $2 million of Ponson’s remaining salary.

One possibility is the Texas Rangers, who Ponson had a handshake agreement in place to sign a free-agent deal with the Rangers before 2003 contingent on the Rangers moving Alex Rodriguez to Boston.

A proposed deal would bring Ponson, Jorge Julio, Hayden Penn, Steve Kline and Larry Bigbie to the Marlins for Lowell, Burnett, and Triple-A outfielder Eric Reed. The Marlins would in turn move Ponson to the Rangers for someone like outfielder Richard Hidalgo.

That would give the Marlins one more outfielder than they need since they planned to platoon Jeff Conine and Bigbie in left and move Miguel Cabrera to third. They could solve that logjam by trading the left-handed hitting Bigbie to a team like the Pirates, who could be willing to deal left-hander Mark Redman for him. The Marlins might also find a taker for Hidalgo if they are set on a righty-lefty platoon.