Jason Bay might have played his final game for the Pirates.
Deep into last night, management was discussing a three-way trade with Boston and Florida, a multi-player transaction that would go like this: Bay, the two-time All-Star outfielder, and reliever John Grabow, would go to the Red Sox. The Pirates would get outfielder Jeremy Hermida and two prospects from the Marlins, as well as another from the Red Sox. Boston would send superstar outfielder Manny Ramirez, a prospect and cash to Florida.
One of the Florida prospects who would head the Pirates' way, according to a source in Miami, is 21-year-old right-handed starter Ryan Tucker, who was summoned this season from Class AA to make six appearances with the Marlins. He went 2-3 with an 8.39 ERA.
Talks are expected to continue into today, in advance of Major League Baseball's trading deadline at 4 p.m. today.
If it comes off, it will be one of the largest trades in the Pirates' history and, because of Bay's status, potentially a defining moment for rookie general manager Neal Huntington.
No one in upper management returned calls last night.
A source in New York with direct knowledge of the transaction last night described it as "a tentative deal," but that might be too strong: For one, the prospects have not been fully determined, are the Pirates are thought to be dissatisfied with some portions of their pool. For another, Ramirez must waive his 10-and-5 rights where a player can veto any trade if he has played in the majors for 10 years, five with the same team. The latter had not happened as of late last night.
In the meantime, the Pirates have another door still open: Yesterday morning and afternoon, they were entertaining offers for from Tampa Bay for Bay and, possibly, Grabow. But the Rays steadfastly refused to included any of their top three pitching prospects -- David Price, Jake McGee or Jeremy Hellickson. The Pirates' targets were believed to be Hellickson and Reid Brignac, the Rays' top shortstop prospect.
As of late last night, there was nothing new between the Pirates and Tampa. ESPN reported shortly before midnight that the Rays turned their attention to Cincinnati Reds outfielder Adam Dunn, but only as a second option if they cannot get Bay.
Boston is eager to trade Ramirez after a series of outbursts, including another last night in which he told ESPN Deportes that the Red Sox "don't deserve" him. The Red Sox initially approached Florida, but they and the Marlins became frustrated by an inability to make a match, and the Pirates were brought into the mix.
Other than Ramirez, Bay is the best outfielder available through trade, making him probably Boston's best bet to replace one of the game's most feared bats.
Bay played last night in the Pirates' 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park and made the final out. But Grabow, seen for days now as most likely to go, was held out even though there were situations late in the game in which he usually would be summoned.
Did Bay think it might be his farewell to Pittsburgh?
"Not really, not until you brought it up," Bay said to a reporter. "I know there's stuff out there, but I'm still part of the Pirates. Everything else is just speculation."
Bay, 29, is enjoying a revival season, batting .283 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs, all dramatically ahead of his paces from last summer. He was acquired by previous general manager Dave Littlefield in 2003, along with pitcher Oliver Perez, from the San Diego Padres for outfielder Brian Giles. His 139 home runs in Pittsburgh rank eighth in franchise history.
Bay has stated many times in recent weeks that his preference is to stay in Pittsburgh and reiterated that yesterday.
The St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics, other teams thought to be Bay suitors, faded by yesterday.
Grabow, 29, has a 3.19 ERA in 48 appearances. He was shut down for nine days earlier this month because of what the team described as a tired arm, but he returned and appeared healthy. He was a 1997 draft pick who came up through the system and reached the majors in 2003.
If consummated, a trade involving Bay would be the Pirates' second huge one in a week: On Saturday, they sent outfielder Xavier Nady and reliever Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees for four prospects.
Nady, Bay and Grabow each can become a free agent after the 2009 season. Marte could become one after this season. That is part of management's thinking in moving such players now, when their salaries are lower and, thus, values a bit higher. But the larger scope revolves around the organization's nearly barren minor league system, particularly in terms of pitching depth.
Hermida, 24, long was considered one of Florida's top prospects before breaking onto the Marlins' roster as a 21-year-old in 2005. Since then, he has batted .270 with 42 home runs in 342 games, including .254 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs in 97 games this season.
Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson also had been discussed with several teams in recent weeks, but indications continued to look strong yesterday that he will stay put, at least until the offseason.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .