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Realmuto trade talks heat up as Marlins look to make deal for All-Star catcher

There is no shortage of interest in J.T. Realmuto.

The Mets like him. The Phillies are interested. The Padres, Yankees, Braves, Rays Dodgers and a host of other teams have talked trade with the Marlins for the All-Star catcher, or at least explored the possibility.

Now it’s up to the Marlins to make their decision, one that sources indicated is expected to come soon, perhaps before the close of baseball’s Winter Meetings here on Thursday.

“There’s a high tag on him,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “We know where the market is. (But) there hasn’t been anything to compel us to do anything at this point.”

This much is almost certain: the Marlins will likely receive a young Major League player in return for Realmuto per the wishes of Derek Jeter, the Marlins’ chief executive officer.

According to sources, Jeter has instructed his front office that any return for Realmuto include an impact big-league player — as opposed to one or more minor-league prospects — who can be placed in the lineup immediately. As a result, the Marlins have asked the Dodgers for first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger and the Mets for shortstop Amed Rosario and outfielder Brandon Nimmo.

The Dodgers said no to the Marlins on Bellinger, the National League Rookie of the Year in 2017. A source said that in addition to Bellinger, the Marlins also demanded that at least one of their better prospects be included in the deal.

The Marlins might have a better chance in convincing the Mets to give up Rosario, who hit .256 with nine home runs and 24 stolen bases last season. While the Mets are reluctant to deal their 22-year-old shortstop and would probably be more willing to give up Nimmo, they are reported to be “very aggressive” in their pursuit of Realmuto.

There were multiple reports late Monday that the Mets had spoken with the Yankees about a possible three-way deal that would enable them to acquire Realmuto from the Marlins while sending starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees. What the Marlins would get back in return was unclear, and sources Tuesday said any such deal was a long shot at best.

But it was one more indication that the Mets are exploring every avenue possible to obtain Realmuto.

“I don’t think where he goes is relevant,” Hill said.

While the Marlins have been actively listening to offers for Realmuto, they’re not limiting their dealings to the catcher.

Sources confirmed a report by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that the Marlins have spoken to the Mariners about veteran first baseman Carlos Santana, whom Seattle acquired in a trade with the Phillies earlier this month.

Santana was with the team of Major League All-Stars that Don Mattingly managed in Japan last month and is coveted for his clubhouse leadership. He would also fill a need for the Marlins at first base. But Santana, a career .247 hitter with 198 home runs, would come at a hefty price. He is owed $20 million each of the next two seasons, a salary the Marlins could try to partially offset by sending either infielder Martin Prado ($15 million next season) or second baseman Starlin Castro ($12 million) to the Mariners in exchange for the first baseman.

The Marlins are also expected to look at mid-level free agents, either to shore up the bullpen or infuse more life into a lineup that scored the fewest runs in the majors last season. Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations, said Monday that the front office is placing a greater emphasis this offseason on finding offensive help than in improving the pitching staff.

The Marlins on Tuesday signaled additions to come when they outrighted infielder Yadiel Rivera and right-handed pitcher Brett Graves to Triple A New Orleans, clearing two spots on their 40-man roster. The Marlins could fill at least one of those spots on Thursday in the Rule 5 Draft (they have the fourth overall pick), or with any player they acquire in a trade.

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