A few afternoon stories that are either (a) irrelevant in the grand scheme of things because they deal in the realm of impossible hypotheticals, or (b) are still developing as time marches by:
● Per a major league source, the Rangers have acquired .282/.327/.361-hitting middle infielder Cristian Guzman from the Washington Nationals in exchange for a two-prospect package (confirmed to be Double-A Frisco right-handers Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark); the deal was confirmed as of 4:30 p.m. CDT, but cannot be declared official until the accompanying paperwork goes through in the next 24 hours; Guzman agreed to waive his 10-and-5 no-trade rights to complete the deal (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[If you read/heard that the Rangers had pushed back the expected return date for Ian Kinsler (general manager Jon Daniels noted last night that Kinsler would be out beyond the minimum 15 days), you had to know something like this was coming. There's still a lot to be said for the whole "go big or don't go at all" mantra I've been harping about for more than a year now, but there's a pattern to the three non-Cliff Lee trades prescribed by the Rangers over the last 30 days: raising the production floor and increasing depth at sketchy positions while relinquishing little of real consequence. I'm still not a big fan of the Bengie Molina trade, but hey, whatever. I hope I'm wrong.
Guzman used to be something of a punch line around the Baseball Think Factory boards (think 2003-05), and it is for that reason that the two are inextricably linked in my mind, but the 32-year-old Guzman is a .297/.326/.403 (.319 wOBA) hitter in his last 1,514 plate appearances, spanning 2008-10; that's acceptable production from a starting middle infielder, and you can easily infer from that statement that Guzman, in his expected capacity (that is, the Rangers' top utility infielder, and probable fill-in at second base during Kinsler's absence), is a nice little pick-up. This is another low-impact move in the vein of the Jorge Cantu deal, but World Series-contending teams like Texas have good reason to pursue peace-of-mind trades. They have a lot more to lose.
In exchange for Guzman (and, per ESPN.com's Buster Olney, a $2 million subsidy from the Nationals that should cover all but about $650,000 remaining on Guzman's 2010 contract), Texas yields Double-A Frisco hurlers Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark. There's more to see in Tatusko, who has pitched well recently and works low in the zone with an 88-92 mph fastball and "solid" breaking ball, but Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus notes that he "doesn't have the stuff to miss bats," which is a little disconcerting for somebody whose upside is probably that of a middle reliever. Roark's acquired a reputation for pounding the strike zone, but is a "fringe" prospect with a decent fastball and inconsistent secondary pitches. Overall, it's the fair, low-dollar price you'd expect to pay in a deal such as this. Adios, Señor Arias.]
● In spite of a spirited attempt by the Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan ownership consortium to circumvent next Wednesday's auction of the Rangers by upping the total cash in their bid by $40 million (achieved by stripping some, if not all, of the various and sundry side deals out of their proposal), Fort Worth bankruptcy judge Michael Lynn has denied their request to have the new CRO-approved bid approved, meaning that next Wednesday's auction will go ahead as planned (David McLaughlin, Bloomberg News)
[This "substantially enhanced" bid would have sufficiently nourished the coffers of the Rangers' most problematic creditors, including Monarch Alternative Capital, but they raised a huge stink about it, as did prospective bidder Mark Cuban, whose lawyer declared that a Cuban-driven bid could possibly topple even the most lucrative Greenberg/Ryan bid. The revised bid would have apparently not paid Tom Hicks for assets included in the original deal, such as the parking lots and the Ballpark's center field office building, but the bid will apparently be reverted back to its previous value as a consequence of Judge Lynn's rejection. Greenberg/Ryan's last -- and perhaps best -- chance to purchase the team may have just come and gone.]
● The Rangers are reportedly shopping both Rich Harden and Scott Feldman around; as an odd coincidence, Harden will supplant Feldman in the Rangers' starting rotation and start against the Angels on Saturday evening; Ron Washington cited Feldman's "experience" in the bullpen as part of the ballclub's motivation for the move (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[I wouldn't read too much into this, as teams dangle players on the market all the time -- sometimes with no serious intent of trading them right then, and sometimes knowing full well that they won't make a deal without being floated an outrageous offer. As far as the implications of the rotation switch-around, well, now is the time to figure out whether Harden can still salvage something from this horrendous 2010 campaign of his, and the opportunity cost of shunting Feldman to the bullpen for a while is minimal. At very worst, Harden implodes again and is released in mid-August, earning Feldman back his rotation spot back; at best, Harden ends up being a late-season/post-season asset of some sort. But I wouldn't count on it.]
● While the Rangers were hammering out yesterday's Jorge Cantu-to-Texas deal, they inquired about the availability of ace right-hander Josh Johnson and offered up their top three prospects; Florida declared that Johnson was untouchable, and no further conversations ensued (Joe Frisaro, MLB.com)
[Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers and Engel Beltre? Considering that Johnson is (a) one of the best pitchers in baseball and (b) signed to a below-market deal through 2013, I think that's a virtual no-brainer, but it gets a little more interesting if you lob Neftali Feliz and/or Derek Holland into the basket. That said, Johnson isn't going anywhere, so does it really matter?]