Steve Gilbert, of MLB.com, reports the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Washington Nationals closer Jon Rauch for infielder Emilio Bonifacio.
Rauch entered this season as a setup man but quickly became the Nationals' closer because of the injuries to closer Chad Cordero (shoulder). Rauch has made 48 appearances this season and has put up some very decent numbers. He is 4-2 with 17 saves, a 2.98 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP but has five blown saves (with three coming in the ninth inning or later).
He has also struck out 44 batters and only walked seven batters in 48 1/3 innings. He has pitched well in the last few seasons as a reliever for the Nationals, posting a 3.61 ERA in 2007 and a 3.35 ERA in 2006 while making a combined 173 appearances. He led the league last season with 88.
Bonifacio is only 2-for-12 (.167) with two RBIs, one stolen base and five strikeouts in eight major league games this season. In 85 games with Triple-A Tucson, he hit .302 with one home run, 29 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He did strike out 64 times and walk 27 times in 367 at-bats this season with Tucson.
The Nationals are expected to turn to fireballer Joel Hanrahan to close for the rest of the season. The righty has struck out 65 in 59 1/3 innings this year while posting a 3.94 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and a .222 batting average against. He doesn't have a save in his major league career.
If Hanrahan were to falter, the other options include Luis Ayala (1-5, 5.32 ERA in 47 1/3 frames) and Saul Rivera (3-4, 3.34 ERA in 56 2/3 innings), who have been setup men this season. Ayala has nine career saves, and Rivera has closed out for games in his career.
From a fantasy perspective, Rauch goes from a closer for the Nationals back to a setup man for the Diamondbacks. He will help solidify Arizona's bullpen, which has been hit with injuries this season.
Rauch also gives them an insurance policy if closer Brandon Lyon falters during the stretch run. Lyon has posted a 4.91 ERA in June and a 9.45 ERA in July after compiling a combined 1.63 ERA before that this season. He has allowed seven runs in his last 1 2/3 innings.
Owners should hold on to him for now in all formats in case he eventually assumes the closing position in Arizona. Don't bet heavily on this, though, since Lyon has been effective besides his recent troubles. Another thing Rauch owners can do is work out a trade with Lyon owners as insurance in case Lyon loses his job.
Hanrahan should be added in all formats. Players in NL-only leagues should grab Ayala or Rivera if they miss out on the young righty.
Bonifacio's fantasy value does not change much at the moment because he was not on any radars after spending much of the season in Triple-A. The Nationals have already optioned him to Triple-A Columbus. He likely will be a September call-up if has not been recalled before the rosters expand. He is seen as the Nationals' second baseman of the future, so his value will increase dramatically over the next few seasons. He should be a target in keeper leagues because he could be a great source for steals once he receives consistent playing time.
About Tim Piotrowski
Piotrowski has been a Hot Off the Wire analyst since 2007.
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