The Diamondbacks traded Jon Rauch to the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named, effectively ending Rauch’s tumultuous tenure with the team. When the Diamondbacks acquired Rauch in late July 2008 for highly touted prospect Emilio Bonafacio, the expectations were high. Rauch had been a dominant reliever with the last place Nationals and was to fill an eighth inning void and solidify the bullpen for a playoff hopeful team. When Rauch came to the Diamondbacks he had a 2.98 ERA in 48 games for the Nationals. He finished the season posting a 6.56 in 26 games for Arizona. The Diamondbacks, subsequently, missed the playoffs by two games.
The 2009 season started the same way the 2008 one finished for Rauch, disastrous. He had a 9.31 ERA through 12 games pitched in April. Opposing batters had a .333 average, and Rauch had given up more hits than he had innings pitched. The Diamondbacks record fell to 9-13 and their season seemed to be lost already.
Even though it was only May the Diamondbacks had lost Brandon Webb for the season, Conor Jackson was out with a mysterious illness, Stephen Drew had just been added to the DL, the Dodgers had the best record in baseball, and the Diamondbacks offense could barely muster a run a game. Hope for a postseason had faded very quickly. A funny thing happened though, starting in May Jon Rauch progressively improved each month, until August, as the team’s playoff hopes became more and more distant.
Now Rauch finds himself with the Twins, who are in the midst of a playoff run. They are only 4 games behind the Tigers for the division and only 1.5 games ahead of the third place White Sox. The division has been very close all season, and now there will be more pressure than ever to finish strong. I am looking forward to seeing which Jon Rauch shows up for them, the Rauch who is guaranteed to give up a run every time he take the mound or the Rauch that will shut down the opposition to give his team three crucial outs. Despite his recent success I think that Diamondback fans will always see him as the former.
Whatever happens to Rauch in Minnesota the most important thing is that he’s gone, and with him a $3 million contract. That gives the Diamondbacks another $3 million of flexibility for next season. $3 million on a $70 million payroll is a very big deal, even bigger than a 6’11” reliever with neck tattoos.