Washington Nationals President Tony Tavares said yesterday that he would like to resolve the status of Manager Frank Robinson before the start of next week's winter meetings, and two club sources indicated it's becoming increasingly likely Robinson will return for a fifth season with the franchise.

"We've got some decisions to make," Tavares said, "and we'd like to get them done as expeditiously as possible."

Tavares would not say whether Robinson will be back, but a high-ranking club source with knowledge of the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity because final determinations haven't been made, said Robinson is likely to be asked back but he will have to make major changes to his coaching staff if he wants to return.

Robinson, 70, did not return a phone message yesterday. In an interview last month, he said he would strongly resist changes to the coaching staff, but would not make that a condition of his return. In four years with the Montreal/Washington franchise, Robinson is 314-334 with just one losing season but back-to-back last-place finishes in the National League East.

Robinson's future has been undetermined since the end of the season because Major League Baseball still owns the Nationals. General Manager Jim Bowden, whose contract was extended through April, initially said he wanted to wait for a new owner to be named before deciding whether to bring back Robinson.

But with baseball haggling with the District Council on a stadium lease, delaying a decision on a new owner, Tavares is pushing Bowden to decide on Robinson's fate before baseball's winter meetings begin Monday in Dallas. Complicating matters is that Bowden remains a candidate for the general manager's job in Boston. Tavares said he expects to hear by the end of the week as to whether Bowden will be back with Washington.

"We'd like to know Jim's situation first," Tavares said. "We don't want to have Jim make a decision that's going to be basically disagreed with if someone new were to be the GM. We'd like to buy some time here, but we don't have a lot. Hopefully, Boston will make its decision, and we'll make ours quickly after that."

Bowden declined comment on Robinson's situation yesterday. Earlier this week, he said, "Even though he's not signed, Frank's still our manager."

Should Robinson return, he would likely have to do so without hitting coach Tom McCraw, one of his oldest friends, as well as first base coach Don Buford and perhaps bench coach Eddie Rodriguez and bullpen coach Bob Natal. Third base coach Dave Huppert is on the brink of accepting a minor league managerial job with the Philadelphia Phillies. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire is the most likely to be asked back.

Meantime, the Nationals -- who lost free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza to the Oakland Athletics on Monday -- are fighting to keep right-hander Hector Carrasco. A baseball source said Carrasco is close to signing with a West Coast team. An invaluable reliever who filled in as a starter at the end of the season, Carrasco, 36, went 5-4 with a 2.04 ERA.