The Sun-Sentinel’s Mike Berardino and Juan C. Rodriguez are the first observers I’ve noticed to claim that the Mets’ acquisition of 1B Xavier Nady from San Diego might be designed with a target other than Manny Ramirez in mind.

There were indications Thursday the Mets were ratcheting up their pursuit of Marlins first baseman Carlos Delgado. The pending acquisition of young slugger Xavier Nady from the Padres would give the Mets another attractive trade chip to send the Marlins’ way.

The key to any deal with the Mets, however, would be Venezuelan right-hander Yusmeiro Petit (above), New York’s top pitching prospect. The Marlins also could ask for some combination of young right-hander Aaron Heilman, first baseman Mike Jacobs or middle infielder Chris Woodward.

Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca, who appears available as well, has drawn interest from the Rockies, but his $12.5 million remaining obligation the next two seasons could be a deterrent. The Rockies also like reliever Guillermo Mota, whose salary could climb past $3 million next year through arbitration.

Rockies outfielder Larry Bigbie is expendable, affordable and a trade target of the Marlins dating to last summer.

Dumping salary remains the Marlins’ primary offseason focus. According to one baseball source with knowledge of their situation, the Marlins’ payroll could dip to $50 million next season, even lower than previously thought.

That would be a decrease of almost 25 percent from the franchise-record $66 million they spent to open last season.

“Fifty [million] is their absolute point of pain,” the source said. “They are in dire straits.”

Money has grown so tight that most of the Marlins’ top scouts and player-development staffers received annual raises of 1 percent or less. The team canceled several international scouting trips that had been scheduled.

Speaking with the NY Daily News’ Adam Rubin, Mets LF Cliff Floyd is amongst those who will rue the departure of Mike Cameron, along with wondering aloud what else might be in the works.

“For him, it’s a great thing. For us it’s a horrible thing,” Floyd said yesterday, referring to Cameron’s ability to keep the atmosphere upbeat and loose in the clubhouse and dugout. “I might be biased and selfish, but when you like someone and get to know them and click, it’s kind of hard to break up.”

The Mets’ acquisition of outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady for Cameron should be announced by tomorrow. Cameron is expected to take an eye exam in San Diego today.

Floyd said he’s curious about the direction the Mets are going after this trade, wondering if the salary savings might be the prelude to a bigger acquisition like Manny Ramirez. He may contact GM Omar Minaya at some point to get a better understanding. Still, Floyd – who will be in the final year of his contract in 2006 – indicated Cameron’s departure should not affect his own tenure with the team.

“They pay me to play ball,” Floyd said. “If anything comes about, it’s definitely not going to come from me at this particular point. I do have some questions to ask.”