I'll be back with more thinking on the deal later, but at first blush this is the kind of deal we should be doing. Second base is clearly a need with Lopez and Belliard both free agents after the season (correction: Belliard is signed through 2009) and no even near major league-ready prospects in the system. One would assume that Rizzo knows Bonifacio well, since he was scouting director in Arizona when Bonifacio originally signed as a minor league free agent in 2001.
For the current Nationals, I would guess that Saul Rivera becomes the closer, with Joel Hanrahan the top set-up man and Luis Ayala getting the seventh in games when we have the lead.
NATIONALS ACQUIRE SECOND BASEMAN EMILIO BONIFACIO FROM ARIZONA IN EXCHANGE FOR PITCHER JON RAUCH
The Washington Nationals today acquired second baseman Emilio Bonifacio from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jon Rauch. Bonifacio was optioned to Triple-A Columbus of the International League. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.
The switch-hitting Bonifacio entered the 2008 season rated as Arizona’s No. 6 prospect according to Baseball America. The same publication also cited Bonifacio as its 2008 Winter Player of the Year—an award encompassing the three Caribbean winter leagues (Dominican, Venezuelan and Mexican)—after he batted .300 and posted a .359 on-base percentage with Licey of the Dominican Winter League.
“This trade brings us a quality, young player, who has the potential to develop into a solid leadoff hitter and outstanding defensive second baseman,” Bowden said. “He is a high-energy player with a lot of potential, and we anticipate he’ll fit nicely into our long-term plan of drafting, acquiring and developing a solid nucleus that will lead our club in the near future.”
In Washington, Bonifacio joins third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, outfielder Elijah Dukes, outfielder Lastings Milledge, and catcher Jesus Flores as building-block position players who began this season 23 years-old or younger. Bonifacio, Dukes and Milledge were all aquired via trades within the last year.
Widely recognized as one of the fastest runners in professional baseball, Bonifacio is viewed as having all of the tools necessary to hit leadoff in the big leagues. Last season, playing for Double-A Mobile, Bonifacio led the Southern League in stolen bases (41) and hits (157), while ranking second in runs scored (84). For his career, Bonifacio owns a stout stolen base percentage of 78.1 percent (280 of 357).
Bonifacio batted .302 (111-for-367) with 18 doubles, five triples, one home run, 29 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 85 games with Tucson of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League before being recalled by the Diamondbacks in early July. He was a Pacific Coast League All-Star selction, marking his fourth consecutive All-Star season.
Originally signed by Arizona as a non-drafted free agent on December 21, 2001, Bonifacio is a career .284 (788-for-2770) hitter with 107 doubles, 36 triples, 13 home runs, 231 RBI and 280 stolen bases in seven minor-league seasons in the Diamondbacks’ system.
Considered well-above average defensively, Bonifacio’s sure-handedness and range are reminiscent of Orlando Hudson, the Diamondbacks’ current second baseman. Baseball America named Bonifacio as the best defensive infielder in Arizona’s chain entering this season.
The 29 year-old Rauch was 4-2 with 17 saves (22 save opportunities) and a 2.98 ERA (16 ER/48.1 IP) in 48 appearances with Washington at the time of the trade.