DALLAS -- It has not reached the stage of inevitability. But the purveyors of the recently conceived website www.keepmanny.com may soon cease to have a reason to exist.
''We're coming closer," said Bill Lajoie, who is serving as point man for the Red Sox contingent at baseball's winter meetings here, when asked about the likelihood of the team satisfying Manny Ramírez's request to be traded.
Jed Hoyer, who was assistant to the general manager under Theo Epstein and retains the same title pending a reshuffling of responsibilities in the front office, was a little more cautious in his assessment of the situation, which has Ramírez's agents, Greg Genske and Gene Mato, both here working with the Sox to facilitate a trade.
''A reason for optimism is accurate," Hoyer said in a media briefing late yesterday afternoon. ''But no one has stepped up to the level we want."
It may be just a matter of time. One source involved in negotiations with the Red Sox confirmed that there is substance to the rumor that the Sox are working on a three-way deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in which the Sox would ship Ramírez to the Angels, the Angels would send prospects to the Diamondbacks, and the Sox would receive a package of players that includes power-hitting infielder Troy Glaus. Those talks, the source emphasized, remain in the preliminary stage, but he expressed hope that a deal could be done by the end of the meetings.
Many clubs have expressed a reluctance to deal for Ramírez unless the Red Sox are willing to absorb a portion of the $57 million owed him over the next three years. Sox owner John W. Henry has in the past expressed a reluctance to do so, and Lajoie echoed opposition to that idea yesterday, but the source said that when the Sox were exploring a deal for Ramírez at last July's trading deadline, they were willing to pick up $3 million a year -- a total of $9 million -- on the contract.
Sox officials, who said they met with eight teams yesterday and had more meetings scheduled last night, said a sixth team had expressed more than a passing interest in Ramírez.
The Mets also are believed to be a serious contender for his services, though their GM, Omar Minaya, told New York reporters yesterday that he didn't expect to make another major roster move. Minaya has already made a serious of dramatic moves to revamp the Mets, adding first baseman Carlos Delgado, closer Billy Wagner, and catcher Paul Lo Duca.
But the source with knowledge of the Ramírez talks said he believed the Mets were still a contender. Asked his thoughts, Lajoie said: ''That would be too close to tipping our hand."
Glaus, a third baseman, hit .258 with 37 home runs and 97 RBIs last season, his first with the Diamondbacks after spending the first seven seasons of his career with Anaheim in the American League.
The 29-year-old righthanded hitter, who had a career-best 47 home runs in 2000, has a lifetime average of .253, with 218 home runs. He has a career on-base percentage of .358, a slugging percentage of .501, and in 25 games in Fenway Park has batted .319 with 4 home runs and 16 RBIs.
The Sox could move him across the diamond to play first base, or attempt to trade newly acquired third baseman Mike Lowell, a less likely alternative.
Glaus has three years remaining on his contract, one that is to pay him $9.25 million in 2006, $10.75 million in '07, and $12.75 million in '08. The rebuilding Diamondbacks would like to get out from under that.
The Sox also have talked to the Texas Rangers about a possible deal for Ramírez, one that would involve second baseman Alfonso Soriano, but those talks are also in the preliminary stage.
The Sox continue to insist that they will not trade Ramírez unless it made sense for them, though Lajoie conceded that it was unlikely they could construct any deal that would net equal value in return.
''First of all, we're not going to get fair value in any way, shape, or form," Lajoie said. ''He's an A-1 hitter, and if you trade him, you're not going to get value for him, man for man. And sometimes three or four pieces don't add up to one man.
''We'll go as far as we can to satisfy him, but we're here first to satisfy the Red Sox."