Diamondbacks Land Rauch

The Diamondbacks’ bullpen got a much-needed boost Wednesday, as Arizona acquired righthander Jon Rauch from the Nationals in exchange for second baseman Emilio Bonifacio.
The Big
At 6-foot-11, Rauch surpassed Randy Johnson as the tallest pitcher in major league history when he made his debut with the White Sox in 2002. Now he joins the Big Unit in Arizona. Rauch, a third-round pick of the White Sox out of Morehead State in 1999, was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2000 (when he helped the U.S. win Olympic gold) and peaked at No. 4 on the Top 100 Prospects list in 2001. He never developed into a dominant starter as projected and did not surpass 33 innings in a season as a big leaguer until 2006, his second with the Nationals, when he made 85 relief appearances. Rauch, 29, has been a stalwart in Washington’s bullpen ever since and is having his best year to date in 2008, going 4-2, 2.98 with 17 saves, 44 strikeouts and seven walks in 48 innings. His 6.29-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fourth-best in the major leagues. Rauch thrives on locating a high-80s fastball and sharp breaking ball.

Bonifacio, 23, ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Arizona system entering this year and has thrived in his Triple-A debut, batting .302/.348/.387 with one homer, 29 RBIs and 17 stolen bases for Tucson. That performance earned him his first taste of the big leagues, where he is 2-for-12 with a stolen base in eight games. Bonifacio, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, broke out in 2006 at high Class A Lancaster, batting .321/.449/.375 with seven homers, 50 RBIs and 61 steals. His well-above-average speed is his best tool, and he uses is effectively on the basepaths. He plays with energy and passion and is a plus defender at second, with reliable hands, great range and a strong arm. A switch-hitter, Bonifacio earns comparisons to Luis Castillo, but he needs to cut down on his strikeouts (583 in 716 career games heading into 2008, and .

This trade is a win for both sides. The Diamondbacks get a reliable setup man for closer Brandon Lyon and bolster a bullpen that ranks 17th in the majors with a 3.97 ERA. On top of that, Rauch will be easy on the payroll and will be under Arizona’s control until 2010. Bonifacio was blocked by Orlando Hudson in Arizona and was expendable.

The Nationals, meanwhile, are going nowhere this season and were able to parlay one of their few desirable major league commodities into a player who may become their second baseman of the future. Even in the short term, Bonifacio could supplant struggling second baseman Felipe Lopez and outsized veteran Ronnie Belliard.

Trade Central 2008