The Palm Beach Post’s Joe Capozzi reports that Florida are prepared to swap P Josh Beckett (above) for Texas 3B Hank Blalock, the Rangers’ willingness to absorb 3B Mike Lowell’s onerous contract being the key to deal.

The deal, characterized as “well in the works,” has been brokered in the past couple of days between Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and Rangers owner Tom Hicks, an American League source said.

But both sources said the deal could fall apart because the Rangers are reluctant to part with one of their coveted pitching prospects.

The Marlins are asking for either left-hander John Danks, Texas’ first-round pick in 2003, or right-hander Thomas Diamond, the team’s first-round pick in 2004.

The Rangers’ reluctance to part with one of those pitchers is the only obstacle in the deal, but a major one that ultimately could kill it, a source said.

Loria, according to one source, wanted to complete the deal before he left the country on a trip to Italy, presumably in the next week. A Marlins source said Loria was already in Europe on Friday.

Danks went 4-10 with a 5.49 ERA in 18 games, 17 starts for Class AA Frisco, Texas. Diamond went 5-4 with a 5.35 ERA in 14 games for Frisco.

The Marlins also are pushing hard to trade center fielder Juan Pierre, and the Colorado Rockies have expressed an interest in catcher Paul Lo Duca. The team is trying to cut payroll because of financial problems exacerbated by a stalled stadium effort.

Perhaps the Dodgers will take LoDuca back and Bill Plaschke can MC the number-retiring ceremony?

Peter Gammons reports on that Boston are in the hunt for Blalock, and that the Marlins are equally determined to move Carlos Delgado, with Baltimore and both the New York clubs being the most likely suitors.