Discussion: Elijah Dukes

In the wake of his surprise release from Washington last Wednesday, it may be time to wonder if Elijah Dukes' major league career could be finished.  The outfielder's legal and personal problems have been well-documented, but Dukes had seemingly straightened himself out since being dealt from Tampa Bay to Washington in December 2007.  Over the winter, the Nationals decided that the services of James Williams (an advisor hired by the club to watch over Dukes) were no longer needed, which seemed to be the final sign that Dukes was ready to be a regular major leaguer.

Dukes had been dealing with a knee injury and had struggled at the plate and in the field during spring training, but according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson, Washington GM Mike Rizzo said that the move had been in the works for a while: "This was not a knee-jerk reaction on several Spring Training at-bats. We spoke about this throughout the winter internally."  Given that the Nats awarded Dukes the starting right field job before spring training began, this statement seems curious.  Rizzo stressed that Dukes' release was a baseball-related decision only, but Ladson noted that Rizzo also said the team would now be "a more cohesive, united group."

In 1879 minor league plate appearances over six seasons in the Rays and Nats' systems, Dukes hit .280/.369/.451 — numbers that showed promise that he could develop into a solid major leaguer, especially when he delivered an .864 OPS in 334 plate appearances with Washington in 2008.  That OPS dropped to .729 last season as Dukes battled a number of injuries and couldn't stay consistent at the plate or in the field (a -9.6 UZR/150 in the outfield according to Fangraphs).

This drop in performance, combined with Rizzo's claim that he couldn't find a trade partner for Dukes, could mean that Dukes' extra baggage has finally outweighed his potential.  (Or, it could simply mean that clubs just wanted to wait for Washington to release Dukes, rather than give up a player for him.)  It will be interesting to see which, if any, team gives Dukes one final chance and signs him to a minor-league contract.  At the very least, Dukes should catch on with an unaffiliated minor league club by the summer and have try to prove himself worthy of the big leagues on the independent circuit. 


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31 Responses to Discussion: Elijah Dukes Leave a Reply

  1. There has to be more to the story. An organization like the Nationals can’t afford to give-up a talent like Dukes without some sort of drastic, negative event taking place. I’m sure in the next week or so, some story will come about involving Dukes–clearing the smoke about his release.

  2. mattinglyfan 5 years ago

    Or the Mariners could take him.

    Kidding!

  3. wild05fan 5 years ago

    Sucks that he couldn’t stay out of trouble or stay healthy. The guy had and probably still has loads of talent. Just can’t put the personal issues behind him and be fully committed to the game.

  4. hermitfool 5 years ago

    Sounds like an ideal guy for the Cubs.

    • valpohistory 5 years ago

      If he took a minor league deal, and was willing to go play everyday at AAA, then I don’t see why it could hurt. Hendry likes these buy low guys, so maybe he’ll stash him at AAA then if someone goes down and they need an outfielder, and I know they have a decent amount of depth with minor league outfielders at the high levels, it can’t hurt. He’s got a lot of talent, so maybe they can pull it off. I wouldn’t be opposed.

      • valpohistory 5 years ago

        Also, they have Ryno at AAA, so maybe he can get him straightened out. He seems like a tough love type of guy

  5. Guest 5 years ago

    San Diego Padres

    • briankoke 5 years ago

      No thanks.

    • Will_Clarks_Gauchos 5 years ago

      Wait, wait. This guy likes Denard Span. He must know what he’s talking about. He is, after all, the one who came up with the clever portmanteau of “Span” and “pandemonium”. “The recent subtraction of overpriced veteran Brian Giles will lead the cost cutting Padres to take a chance on a plucky young cheap kid” he says in campy sportscaster, 1985 SportsCenter mind. Is everyone else as tired as I am of this clown?

      • No, we’re not tired of SPANdemonium, at least I’m not cause unlike you, he provides good commentary and knows what he is talking about.

        • Will_Clarks_Gauchos 5 years ago

          Ooohhh burn…you two have homeroom together. Did you shouldertap your liquid courage?

  6. switchhitingjesus 5 years ago

    what about the royals? He would have nothing to lose going to them.

    • Guest 5 years ago

      Question is what would the Royals gain with him? Another statue in the outfield?

  7. possibly come off the bench in houston but that would probably hurt the dugout the way cooper did.

  8. Jonathan Gallo 5 years ago

    I hope the Yankees go after him. The outfield depth is pretty bad on the major and minor league level.
    Winn is done (disliked the signing at the start). Thames is only a situational player. Hoffman needs to be in the minors (hopefully we can trade Mitre or Gaudin to LAA to retain his rights.)
    Also the only minor league outfielders the Yanks have are Collin Curtis (better than Winn now IMHO) Melky Mesa and Kelvin De Leon (but in the low minors)

    • Guest 5 years ago

      Really? Greg Golson, Brett Gardner, Jamie Hoffman, Marcus Thames, and Reed Gorecki all provide depth in my opinion.

    • I agree, Yanks dont have anything to lose. They should sign him. Good defense in the outfield, has a real strong arm, and has power. I watched him play in Tampa. The kid really has talent.

      Winn isnt gonna cut it, Gardner is Gardner, and Thames is a spot start at best.

      Nothing wrong with adding more depth.

  9. Havok1517 5 years ago

    I’d like to see the Giants sign him.

  10. BK 5 years ago

    Get him on a squad with a no non-sense manager; Angles, Yankees..etc Winning tends to put players like him in their place. Build some value and decide to keep him ore move him.

  11. killacam04 5 years ago

    Look the kid has substantial talent but he hasnt put it together yet. The main problem with the Nats is they dont have those vets that Dukes can look at and believe in. I think Seattle would be a good place for him. Like everyone his age he probably grew up watching Griffey at younger age. He would also be a good fit with the Dodgers because Toree does well with these type of players. I think he deserves one final chance on a minor league contract to prove himself.

  12. I’d really like for the Braves to sign him.

    • coolstorybro222 5 years ago

      Bobby wouldn’t let a player of that caliber in the clubhouse. he would bring the team down with his negitive mindframe and his personal issues.

      • Kinda like Sheffield did huh? We’ve got a veteran clubhouse that can absorb a guy like Dukes and get him on the right path. And if he screws up, then we can tell him to go to hell and release him. He’s got a ton of talent and just needs a place to realize it.

  13. lftyg33 5 years ago

    at this point i think its doubtful that he can sign a major league contract. maybe getting back on buses after games instead of chartered jets will give him a little kick in the butt… but i think dukes’ time has come and passed

  14. Spirit of '69 5 years ago

    Makes sense for Yanks or Red Sox. Cameron is getting older and more injury prone. Kind of a shame about Dukes. Sometimes talent is wasted on the talented.

  15. JLaw 5 years ago

    I don’t know what it is about Dukes, but I have always liked him and thought he would develop into some real talent. Hopefully this set back will allow for a change in scenery that will allow him to find himself another starting spot in the big leagues. I am not a fan of him joining the Braves, but I actually think a lot of teams could benefit from making him a solid addition, even if it is as a 4th outfielder or something pending his attitude/ego don’t cause trouble.

  16. Texas Rangers or Toronto could be an interesting fit.

  17. jaysfan24 5 years ago

    Please Toronto…..

  18. None of our LF options have the upside that Dukes has. Given an everyday role he’s a .250/.360/.450 hitter with 20HR power once his HR/FB stabilizes. Despite last year’s problems, he also brings a track history of double digit steals at a respectable percentage and solid defense in the outfield corners. As I said above, we’ve got the kind of clubhouse that lets a team take a risk on a guy like Dukes. If he comes in and causes problems then you cut his ass, simple as that.

  19. He spent two years with Braves and what the hell does his contract situation five years after the fact have to do with anything? Fact of the matter is that he was not a malcontent in Atlanta and maybe the fact that he can’t defend and is over 40 is the reason he doesn’t have a job.

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