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Source: Hanley to sign six-year deal

Hanley to sign long-term deal

WASHINGTON -- Hanley Ramirez is widely regarded as a franchise player.

The Marlins certainly believe so, and they're making the 24-year-old shortstop the foundation of their future.

According to a high-ranking Major League Baseball source, the Marlins have reached a tentative agreement on a six-year, $70 million contract with their star shortstop. The deal is not expected to be formally announced for at least a few days.

But for a while, the Marlins have been negotiating with Ramirez about a long-term contract. The National League Rookie of the Year in 2006 had been eligible for salary arbitration after the season. Instead, Ramirez is on the verge of signing the richest contract in franchise history.

Ramirez is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the game, batting .336 with eight home runs and 21 RBIs in 35 games. At least in the Marlins' clubhouse, he is regarded as a lock to be selected to his first All-Star Game this season.

The Marlins are off to their best start in club history. Through 35 games, they are 21-14. Ramirez is a primary reason for the team's success.

In Friday's 7-3 win in Washington, the young slugger was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. His double was the 100th of his career. He's also on an extraordinary pace for runs scored. He set a franchise record with 125 a year ago, and he already has 31 this season.

Ramirez has 275 career runs scored in 349 games, plus he also has 54 homers and 161 RBIs.

The Marlins obtained Ramirez from the Red Sox on Thanksgiving night in 2005 in a blockbuster trade that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.

In coming to terms with Ramirez, the Marlins did something unprecedented. They normally don't lock up players through their arbitration years, along with buying out a few years of free agency. But they did so with Ramirez, who has accepted the leadership role on a young franchise.

The Marlins renewed Ramirez's 2008 contract for $439,000.

As early as Spring Training, the Marlins began internal discussions on how to retain Ramirez for the long haul. There was a thought to wait until after the season, but with each passing day, the Dominican Republic native's market value kept rising.

Ramirez is the rare talent who combines great speed and power.

As a leadoff hitter in 2007, he finished with a .332 batting average, along with 29 homers, 81 RBIs and 51 stolen bases.

Through 35 games this season, Ramirez is again on pace for incredible numbers across the board. He already has 13 steals, and recently, he was moved to the No. 3 spot in the order.

Once the Ramirez signing is officially announced, the shortstop will become the first Marlin since 2005 to be locked up to a multiyear contract.

Ramirez's pending signing comes at a time when the Marlins are making plans to move into a new retractable-roof ballpark at the Orange Bowl site in downtown Miami.

The new stadium is scheduled to open in 2011, and Ramirez now projects to be the face of the franchise for years to come.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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