Nationals Release Elijah Dukes

The Nationals released outfielder Elijah Dukes, according to a team press release.  According to a tweet from MASN's Ben Goessling, the move had nothing to do with off-the-field issues.  This is very surprising news, as Dukes projected as the team's starting right fielder and has a minor league option left.  Goessling talked to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, who said the team made many attempts to trade Dukes but could not find an interested team (Twitter link).  Dukes' time with Washington was marked by injuries and a disappointing '09 season.

Dukes, 25, hit .250/.337/.393 in 416 plate appearances last year, playing a below-average right and center field (according to UZR).  He also played 22 games in the minors.  Dukes has avoided off-the-field problems since Jim Bowden acquired him from the Rays in December of '07, with a June '08 dugout confrontation with Manny Acta probably his worst offense.  Just a couple of weeks ago Goessling noted that the Nationals had "taken the reins off Dukes — letting his personal adviser go and allowing him more freedom with the media." 

58 Responses to Nationals Release Elijah Dukes Leave a Reply

  1. coach_coryell 5 years ago

    dunn to RF, willingham to 1b, desmond to LF?

    • gwells 5 years ago

      no. why would you move 1B dunn to the OF and OF willingham to 1B because you released a different OF?

      • coach_coryell 5 years ago

        just speculating that dunn might have a better arm for RF than willingham and they seem to love desmond who they could teach to play LF for the time being.

        • gwells 5 years ago

          desmond has a better arm than either (and is considered one of the best athletes on the team).

          dunno what they’ll do with desmond. rizzo has talked a good game about him playing SS every day somewhere, either AAA or in washington.

          but you won’t see dunn back in the OF.

        • bbxxj 5 years ago

          Willingham has a better arm than Dunn from what I have seen and has more recent and overall experience in RF than Dunn has. Also, I really doubt they move Desmond to to LF because what makes his bat attractive is the fact that it comes from a SS. If you place him in LF where he may not even be a plus defender, his bat suddenly does not look very good.

          • coach_coryell 5 years ago

            dunn was recruited our of HS to play QB for texas, and began his career as a RF for the reds so he probably has a pretty good arm. the nats talked earlier about making desmond a supersub and playing some OF, and LF is easiest to learn. he might not be the ideal LF bat but his bat is major league ready–he’s only blocked by guzman and his 8 million dollar contract. willingham has a bad back and might benefit from less running in the OF. again, just speculating.

          • jdub220 5 years ago

            But Adam Dunn is horrible in the field, so his defensive woes are minimized at first. His defense his historically bad. His UZR in 2009 was the worst ever in a season.

          • coach_coryell 5 years ago

            i know that dunn is awful in the field. i think everyone does. but did that prevent the nationals from throwing him out in LF before they dealt nick johnson last year? NO. and i don’t put it past them to do it again this year either. even reggie jackson played right field everyday when it was clear that he’d become a terrible defender. and frankly i’d rather have willingham at first and healthy for 550 at bats, than a gimpy 375, even if it means dunn lumbers around out there in RF.

        • Guest 5 years ago

          But Dunn is a worse outfielder than Daniel Murphy…

  2. osfan3000 5 years ago

    wow this really is a surprize and caught me off guard. they said he was the sarting RF. Sadly, he has been a dissappointment and unable to live up to expectations. Im guessing they are gonna go with a younger outfielder such as Maxwell or Bernadina?

    • susasskuash 5 years ago

      Bernadina is only 6 days younger than Dukes, and Maxwell is actually about 6 months older than Dukes. Dukes is only 25, had options left and had not even hit arbitration yet, so they weren’t “making room” for somebody. If that was the case, they could send Dukes to AAA and/or wait for a trade to develop. Something bigger happened here, I’m really curious what it was. I was really pulling for Dukes to turn his life around and realize his potential in a Nats uniform.

    • josh01632 5 years ago

      Ian Desmond has been having a solid spring and they’ve been giving him some innings in RF. Management has suggested that if Desmond isn’t in an every day role in the majors that he should get every day playing time in the minors. I bet they’ll give Desmond enough at bats from RF to allow him to stay in the majors as more than just a backup 2B/SS at least until they can move Guzman.

  3. sjberke1 5 years ago

    Really extraordinary–there must have been some sort of blowup, especially since Dukes had an option year left, and they could have just sent him down if it was a matter of on-field performance.

  4. osodani 5 years ago

    What??? Seriously, they couldn’t find someone to take him off their hands? And they couldn’t use him as a reserve? He must have done something seriously wrong here.

  5. Jermaine Dye?

    • NL_East_Rivalry 5 years ago

      That’s what came to my mind, but wouldn’t they have just signed him first, then droped Dukes?

  6. bbxxj 5 years ago

    That is really is suprising news. All I can remember about him this spring is about how he was primed for a nice year and had turned things around a bit.

    Teams where he could latch on:


    I know they have Church, Jones and others who can play RF but this teams seems like one that is willing to let talented but perhaps troubled players like Lastings Milledge have some playing time and another opportunity to reach their potential.

    San Francisco:

    Right field isn’t exactly locked down and they may be willing to give him a shot to earn a starting gig.

    Florida and Minnesota:

    Neither of these teams would look at Dukes as a starter but they are both contenders who are a bit thin in OF depth. Dukes isn’t a great defender but can play any OF spot in short periods of time when needed and would be a solid bat off the bench.

    Also, who know does Washington put in RF? The easiest thing to do would just be to play Maxwell in RF and see if his stellar D and decent walk rate plays in the majors over a full season. Dye would also be an option here as would a trade for a LF or RF as Willingham can play in either spot. They also could trade for a 1B and move Dunn back to LF and Willingham back to RF. Who knows, but none of them seem like fantastic options.

    • Drew 5 years ago

      While we could use the backup CF help, the Twins aren’t really known for their ability to change attitudes and reform pouty players (See: Delmon Young). Not to mention we’d be stuck AGAIN with the “who gets cut/trade/sent down” problem.

      Our bench right now is:


      Thome is a lock, we need one of Butera/Ramos, that leaves two spots for the last three guys. Casilla out of option years, so he’s likely… There’s some chance we could bring Revere with us, but not likely…

      Essentially, signing Dukes to a Major League contract sends both Tolbert and Harris back to AAA and locks Punto into a no-doubt full-time 3B spot

      • Rashomon 5 years ago

        Maybe he could get Delmon going. Problem is you gotta move Casilla for bus fare. I like a bench of :


        • Drew 5 years ago

          See, I still think Casilla has value. Either he needs to step up and earn a job, or step up and prove his worth so trading partners get interested in him. It’s so frustrating to have Perkins and Casilla as perfect pieces of trade bait that simply refuse to impress potential suitors…

          • Rashomon 5 years ago

            Tell me about it. I saw both Casilla and Perkins in spring ball last week and disappointment is an understated word.

        • Guest 5 years ago

          When healthy, Jose Morales will be the backup catcher.

  7. InTheKZone 5 years ago

    Someone will give him a shot if nothing more than an off the bench option. Dukes still has a ton of potential but he seriously needs to get his head on straight.

  8. justincb 5 years ago

    Can’t believe the Nats are straight-up releasing guys like that…

  9. SpringtownRoyal 5 years ago

    please god, let the Royals pick him up and drop Guillen.


  10. grownice 5 years ago

    come on jays grab him!

    • alxn 5 years ago

      I was thinking the same thing. He would make some sense for the Jays.

      • grownice 5 years ago

        Agreed , issues aside i think this would be a good security blanket if anything if say snider doesnt make the team , dukes wouldnt be the worst option off the bench either, sopecially competing with jeremy reed and joey gathright.

  11. If the Yanks didnt sign Winn, Dukes could be a nice option for LF.

  12. Peter_Gammons 5 years ago

    Internal discussions with the Nationals involve sending Elijah Dukes to Milwaukee as part of a trade package for Ryan Braun–this is news.

    • isaac_k 5 years ago

      This would be great, but with an unconditional release this is off the table completely, yes? Releasing Dukes makes no sense at all to me. I live in DC and saw him play quite a bit over the past few years, his personal issues were getting better, his hitting was improving and the few games I attended where he had late inning opportunities, he delivered. He’s been limited by a few injuries and a crowded outfield last year, but that seemed to have relieved itself paving the way for a good year from him. ..and then this. I’m seriously confused.

      • ReverendBlack 5 years ago


      • Guest 5 years ago

        Same here. So there were no trade suitors–he’s still under team control, let him start out the season and trade him then. I just don’t understand this move at all.

  13. jcrabtree7 5 years ago

    Can someone please give props to Destin Hood? I’m not only saying that bc I played with him in high school, but the guy is a beast with a bat in his hand. True, he may not be ready yet, but if he continues on his current path, I could see him in RF in July.

    • WolandJR 5 years ago

      Hood has immense amounts of talent, but hasn’t even played above low A ball yet. 2010 is an optimistic arrival schedule to say the least. Must have been really cool to play with him in HS though.

  14. I’d like to see him on the Braves. The guys has plenty of talent, he just needs the right situation to succeed.

  15. jhawk90 5 years ago

    Long Island Ducks are making an offer as we speak. Imagine the possibilities…

  16. dickylarue 5 years ago

    If this wasn’t disciplinary, I think he’ll be a Yankee. Thames, Winn, Gardner and Hoffman haven’t exactly lit it up and the Yankees need a LF who hits RH. It almost makes too much sense.

    If this was another blowup by Dukes, then he’ll be playing in the independent league or Japan.

  17. I’d rather have Elijah Dukes as my RF than Jeff Francouer. Just sayin’.

    • There’s a long list of guys I’d rather have than Jeff Francoeur.

    • Sad thing id JF has had the better career. That’s why I don’t get the fawning over Dukes. Screw all this “supposed talent” he hasn’t done anything on the field. I see giving him a chance, but not rushing to make him a starter. WAS gave him his shot & he did nothing.

  18. Goessling gave an update explaining the reasoning.

    link to

    This could work out pretty nice for whoever gets him.

  19. aap212 5 years ago

    I wonder if Rizzo text messaged him a picture of the Newark Bears.

    “I ain’t even lyin’.”

  20. vinnieg 5 years ago

    give hoffman back to LA and sign dukes. hes got the potential to be a stud.

  21. johnsilver 5 years ago

    Just a little FYI on former ex Rays high draft picks floating around baseball that had severe attitude, or substance abuse problems:

    Dukes: Everybody know this wife beater and multiple jailbirds problems.

    Delmon Young: Exiled to Twins and actually robbed them of Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza to boot in the heist after he continually dogged it on the field and maddon got tired of arguing with his *rookie* ballplayer during the 2007 season, for simple things, like running out ground balls to 1B..

    Josh Hamilton Actually a #1 overall way back. Turned to illegal pharmaceuticals soon after drafted and Rays never got a thing out of him.

    BJ Upton. Only on this list they still have, but another delmon Young type. Plays hard when wants to and career downward spiral and not all the shoulder injury from 1 1/2 year ago either. Attitude problem here also, something his brother does not seem to have.

    Is it the Rays, or is it the player. Do the Rays due do diligence on players they even draft?

    • THANK YOU SO MUCH for enlightening all of us with this post. Clearly, the Rays do not perform due diligence on drafted players, because James Shields, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Desmond Jennings, David Price, Columbia graduate Fernando Perez, Andy Sonnanstine, and the other prospects in the system are no-hustle, lazy, thug, ni— I mean, ballplayers. And you’re so right about BJ Upton – after all, I’m sure you have great personal experiences with BJ and know exactly how his work ethic, level of hustle, and attitude project on a daily basis. Delmon Young is a complete druggy, but it’s weird man, because he’s never been implicated in any drug-related matter.

      I can’t do the sarcasm thing any longer. I’ll teach you a little bit about how MLB works: you see, there is this thing called the “draft” every year where the 30 teams can draft from a field of thousands of HS and college players. There are about 50 rounds in the draft, meaning every year each team picks about 40-50 players. That means, in the past, say, 5 years, the Rays have had at most 5 (and probably fewer) players drafted who go on to have serious off-the-field issues.

      And, just to cure you of your ignorance (although I fear it may be of the terminal variety), the players you mentioned were not even drafted by the current front office. BJ Upton has not had a “downward spiral” of a career but has rather been a consistently valuable player, posting about 2-4 WAR a year. Josh Hamilton was a saint and had no such issues until AFTER the draft when he started being on his own, away from his fundamentalist parents. Elijah Dukes is from Tampa, went to Hillsborough High School and was both a track and football star. His talent and potential are almost universally recognized, and as you said, he does have off-the-field issues, which is about the only reason the Rays would ever trade with the Nationals.

      In fact, just to show you how stupid you truly are, the current Rays ownership and management are NOTORIOUS for being selective about “intangibles,” and avoid players who they feel are overly egotistical, unresponsive to advice, or have trouble adjusting.

      My advice to you, and it is truly friendly advice, is to never share your ideas here or anywhere again. People who know anything about baseball will laugh at you and people who don’t might just listen and start spewing other such stupidity around different media outlets. If you were a Fox News analyst, you would be Glenn Beck.

      • johnsilver 5 years ago

        You don’t like it? Don’t read ’em. 4 top head cases drafted any Rays ownership regardless and Upton still on a downward spiral regardless, with the only thing he is maintaining, being his high strikeout rate and his defense. You cannot defend that stat.

        How many teams have had that many top draft picks with so many troubles? Not many.

        BTW: I’ll gladly take Glenn beck over say.. Olberman whom you seem to be preferring anyday…

  22. Shoeless_Joe 5 years ago

    Gee, young guy with potential, options, and is cheap? Sounds like a guy the Nats should take a chance on!……oh wait! What?

  23. oscargamble 5 years ago

    The Gnats got tired of paying for babysitters like a personal assistant and his former “mentor” Dmitri Young to hold his hand and decided that one player wasn’t above the team. He’s a big athletic guy that has the tools but no clue how to put them together. He needs to go to a proven winner like the Yankees and act like Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest with the Lakers and learn how to play the winning way. I really like the bold move made by Rizzo – give a chance to those players that want to play the right way regardless of if they have more raw talent or not.

  24. 0vercast 5 years ago

    No team was willing to give up ANYTHING in the trade?

    • mrsjohnmiltonrocks 5 years ago

      You know, that happens when other teams know they don’t want the player around. Someone will, and should, scoop him up and take a chance on him. For free. Why not? If you’re going to get a headache, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Minnesota has the same problem with Glen Perkins. They don’t want to give him away for nothing, but they will end up giving him away for nothing.

  25. RandyKnorr 5 years ago

    Choking a coach during practice is still an “on-the-field” incident. If it wasn’t a persistent attitude issue or specific incident, I will further extend pity to nats fans

  26. jaysfan24 5 years ago

    He would be a nice fit for the Blue Jays. Snider,Wells,Dukes!

  27. redsandyanksfan 5 years ago

    how about the reds pick him and sign him for left field job with gomes and let them compete dukes has potenial to be a pretty good player he just needs to changes his ways he is like the second coming of miltion bradley

  28. Guest 5 years ago

    This might mean Willy Taveras makes the team. He’s been having a decent spring training so far (hitting .308 with a homer), for what it’s worth. Not that I’d prefer him over Dukes but that is the case right now.

    Also the Nats got back Glen Gibson, the P that was traded for Dukes, so it appears that they are back at square one.

  29. bandit09 5 years ago

    As the old saying goes – they finished last with him they can finish last without him – and his .730 OPS

  30. Yankees420 5 years ago

    Can you imagine Dye and Dunn in the same OF together? Scary bad?

  31. BaseballFan0707 5 years ago

    Lazy fly balls would be doubles and/or triples.

    And any person could manage to hit for a cycle. I love Melky and all, but I send my upmost thanks to Dye for being the RF the day Melky hit for the cycle.

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