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Nationals working on Guzman contract

Nationals working on Guzman contract

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are still in negotiations on a contract extension for shortstop Cristian Guzman. However, if a deal is not done soon, there is a possibility that Guzman could be traded before the July 31 deadline, according to a baseball source.

Guzman's agent, Stanley King, said he will stop negotiations after a certain point because Guzman does not want himself or the team to be distracted the rest of the season. The original plan was not to negotiate at all during the season, but the Nationals approached King on June 25 about a two-year extension.

At the time, the Guzman camp was not insulted by the two-year offer, understanding that general manager Jim Bowden took a tremendous hit by the baseball community and local media for giving Guzman a four-year, $16.8 million deal after the 2004 season. Guzman has been hurt for most of those four years.

"Cristian is optimistic that something will get done," King said by phone. "Cristian has made concessions and has shown that he wants to stay in Washington."

King declined to say how much money Guzman was looking for and general manager Jim Bowden declined to comment.

Guzman is clearly the Nationals' best player this season. Entering Saturday's action against the Braves, Guzman is hitting .312 and leads the National League in hits (127) and at-bats (407). He raised his stock even more when he played third base for the National League All-Star team.

With the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal out indefinitely with a back injury, Guzman will be among the top free-agent shortstops entering the offseason.

In other news, a baseball source said scouts from the White Sox and Rays are looking at reliever Jon Rauch, who has been the team's best pitcher with a 2.85 ERA and 17 saves.

The Rays, who are in the Wild Card and American East Division races, are looking at Rauch as a set-up man. With Troy Percival so fragile, the Rays would also consider Rauch being a closer.

Washington most likely would want prospects in return and it's thought right-hander Wade Davis could be available. Davis, 22, is playing for Double-A Montgomery and is 9-6 with a 3.85 ERA.

The White Sox are another team that might be interested: Rauch started his career with them. General manager Ken Williams traded Rauch and right-hander Gary Majewski to the Expos for outfielder Carl Everett on July 18, 2004.

Another baseball source confirmed earlier this week that the Nationals have interest in Rockies outfielder Matt Holiday, but the source considered the interest mild at best. The news was first reported by FOXSports.com last Saturday.

The Nationals are apparently satisfied with their outfield of Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes.

If anything, according to the source, the Nationals need a difference maker in the infield. Reds infielder/outfielder Adam Dunn is a person Bowden has interest in, but it will be interesting to see if the front office will allow him to acquire another player from Cincinnati.

Bill Ladson 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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