From Newsday’s Ken Davidoff :

While the Mets remain very much involved in the Manny Ramirez trade discussions, their effort to acquire Danys Baez is considerably closer to completion, two officials familiar with the talks said yesterday.

The Mets have thus far refused to include Heilman in the package for Baez, one of those officials said, but the Tampa Bay Devil Rays think they can find a package even without Heilman.

It’s believed such a package would center around righthander Jae Seo, and the Devil Rays also have interest in second baseman Kaz Matsui, whom they could convert to shortstop and then trade their incumbent at the position, Julio Lugo.

While the Mets have told clubs they’d provide $5 million of the $8 million Matsui is owed in 2006, Tampa Bay might take a flyer on the 30-year-old if the Mets throw in an additional $500,000, thereby making Matsui a $2.5-million shortstop, according to an official from a major-league club.

Day after day we read the Mets’ difficulties in trading Kaz Matsui hinge on the understandable reluctance of trading partners to assume a large portion of of the player’s salary. With this mind, perhaps New York should offer $9 million in cash along with medical records to indicate that Matsui will never play again.

In all seriousness, the artificial turf at Tropicana makes a return to shortstop one option for Matsui were the Devil Rays to acquire him. If Matsui makes an error or 3 dozen in a Tampa Bay uniform, the park’s poor acoustics make it unlikely he’ll hear the boos of the 3 dozen fans in attendence.