Elijah Dukes Rumors

Elijah Dukes Signs With Newark Bears

According to the Atlantic League website's transactions page, the Newark Bears have signed former Nationals outfielder Elijah Dukes

When last we heard of Dukes, he was rumored to be taking a year off from playing after he didn't show up to a tryout with Mexican League franchise Tabasco Olmecas.  Dukes was surprisingly released by Washington on March 17 after being given the Nationals' starting right-field job over the winter, and it was generally believed that the move was made to "improve clubhouse chemistry." 

Dukes joins a number of former major leaguers on the Newark roster, most notably Carl Everett, Daryle Ward and Brian Barton.  Dukes has a career slash line of .242/.349/.421 in 970 plate appearances with the Nationals and Rays.  Given his history of problems off the field, any major league teams who may be scouting Dukes will be paying just as much attention to his behavior as they will his on-field performance with the Bears.

Cafardo’s Latest: Blue Jays, Dunn, Washburn, Dukes

In his column today for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo explores the effect of Arizona's controversial immigration law on baseball. He also shares a few notes from around the league:

  • The Blue Jays' huge collection of scouts should have them well-prepared to deal at this year's trade deadline. Cafardo names a slew of players who the Jays could try to move if they're out of playoff contention, noting that the club will "likely listen to anything." The list includes Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Alex Gonzalez, Scott Downs, Jose Bautista, John Buck and Jose Molina.
  • Molina has thrown out eight of 11 basestealers so far this year, a statistic that could intrigue the Red Sox. However, Cafardo says the Sox "will never deal for a catcher who is all defense, no offense."
  • Cafardo suggests that Adam Dunn would be a good fit at DH for the Red Sox in the post-David Ortiz era.
  • Jarrod Washburn's time off this spring has given him a few extra weeks to recover from offseason knee surgery, though now teams will have to assess how long it will take Washburn to be major league ready. According to Cafardo, the Dodgers' pitching issues make them look every day like a better fit for Washburn.
  • A source tells Cafardo that Elijah Dukes' rumored deal with the Tabasco Olmecas of the Mexican League fell through after Dukes failed to show up for a reporting date. Cafardo indicates that the 25-year-old could end up spending the year away from baseball.

The Latest On The Unsigned Position Players

After recapping the most recent news on some remaining free agent starting pitchers yesterday, let's focus on the bats today. Here are the latest updates on a few of the notable unsigned position players:

  • Jermaine Dye: Dye had the Mariners on his wish list, but Seattle didn't have much interest in the 36-year-old. Another team out west, the Giants, also had no interest in signing Dye. Washington was in the mix for the right-handed slugger at one point, though they've since backed off. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe thinks Dye will sign somewhere soon, and an American League club where Dye could DH would make sense. Like Jarrod Washburn though, he'll likely need to reduce his asking price.
  • Gary Sheffield: Cafardo also believes Sheffield should sign soon, and tweeted that the veteran had "something on the table" a couple weeks ago. The Nationals also had discussions with Sheff, but the club seems happy with their current selection of outfielders for now. Even though he's 41, Sheffield could have value to a National League team as a pinch-hitter and part-time player, like he did for the Mets last year (.276/.372/.451 in 312 PAs).
  • Carlos Delgado: Delgado might end up being the offensive equivalent of Pedro Martinez: a hired gun that could contribute to a contending team in the second half of the season. The Mets were considered a possibility prior to their promotion of Ike Davis. Before Delgado catches on with any club, the 37-year-old will have to show that he's fully healthy following his second hip surgery in February.
  • Joe Crede: Considering Crede is a Scott Boras client, it's somewhat surprising that we've heard next to nothing regarding his status. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported in early March that Crede was hitting and throwing while he waited for an offer, but there has been very little news since then. Crede has homered 32 times over the past two seasons and plays an above-average third base, so it may be health questions that are keeping him on the free agent market. As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith suggested earlier this month, a healthy Crede "could become an attractive mid-season option for risk-taking GMs."
  • Elijah Dukes: Shortly after Dukes' surprising release by the Nationals, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that a few teams were interested in the 25-year-old. Since then though, we haven't heard anything concrete. Perhaps clubs are still hesitant to invest in Dukes, given his off-field history.
  • Rocco Baldelli: There was some speculation earlier in April that Baldelli could be an option for the Rays if they gave up on Pat Burrell, since Baldelli has been working out at Tropicana Field and wants to play. Burrell has played better since that point, hitting .275/.318/.500 in his last 11 games, silencing those rumors somewhat. For the time being, Baldelli will continue to serve as a special assistant for the Rays.

Check out our full list of available hitters here.

Assessing Elijah Dukes’ Value

Most 25-year-olds don't hit the open market, especially if they have a .349 career on base percentage and a track record of success in the minors. A .280/.369/.451 minor league batting line is better than average, but Elijah Dukes is not your average outfielder. 

The reputation he developed as a trouble-maker has been hard to shed and there's been little reported interest in Dukes since the Nationals released him about a month ago. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted (via Twitter) that multiple teams were interested in late March, but there's been no reported interest in Dukes since.

Dukes seemed like a promising player as recently as last spring, but Ben Goessling of MASN.com says the Nats released Dukes because of his on-field performance (Twitter link). Dukes' outfield defense is below average, according to UZR, and his on base and slugging percentages dropped considerably last year, so the Nationals have a point.

Even though Dukes had a poor season last year, he gets on base, he's young and he's controllable. He is a pre-arbitration player, so the team that signs Dukes will have the rights to his services through 2013. There's no doubt that Dukes' past limits interest in him, but he has enough positives that it would be surprising not too see some club sign Dukes.

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Odds & Ends: Beimel, Cust, Dukes, Santos

Saturday links..

Odds & Ends: Kim, Dukes, Adrian

Links for Thursday…

Heyman On Willis, Dunn, Dukes, Berkman

Jon Heyman covered a number of topics in his latest piece for SI.com, and here are a few of the hot-stove highlights…

  • While Dontrelle Willis' "$12MM salary is one impetus to take him north," Heyman writes that the left-hander has pitched very well this spring and could earn a spot in Detroit's rotation on his own merit.  Heyman didn't discuss Willis' future with the club, but it would take a huge season for Willis to earn anything close to $12MM in a free-agent contract this winter.  Even if he does have a big rebound year, his first two seasons in Detroit were probably enough to close the door on him remaining a Tiger past 2010.
  • Heyman writes that the Nationals have told Adam Dunn that he won't get a contract extension from them (no matter his offensive numbers) unless he proves that he can play a decent first base.
  • Elijah Dukes' release from Washington is "a shame."  Heyman says "while there was no one incident that triggered his release, the Nationals felt it would improve clubhouse chemistry for him to be gone."
  • Heyman praises the Astros for not giving in to the "public pressure" that Lance Berkman put on the club to pick up his 2011 option.  Houston's decision looks wiser, Heyman says, in the wake of Berkman's recent minor knee surgery that may keep him on the DL for the first few weeks of the season.

Odds & Ends: Helton, Gaudin, Hensley, Papelbon

Links for Monday…

  • Troy Renck of The Denver Post has the details of Todd Helton's new contract extension. He can void the deal if two of three general partners sell their controlling interest in the team, and it contains $13.1MM in deferred money at three percent interest.
  • The Yankees could look to move Chad Gaudin soon, according to Rosenthal (via Twitter). In another tweet, he mentions that Clay Hensley can opt out of his contract with the Marlins if he's not on the roster by April 1st.
  • Jim Bowden shows off his post-trade fist pump in his latest GM's Corner video for FOX Sports.  Bowden asked a slew of GMs about their processes for making deals; Frank Wren estimated that less than ten percent of discussions lead to trades.
  • In considering Jonathan Papelbon's future, WEEI's Alex Speier demonstrates just how risky large multiyear deals for relievers have been.
  • FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal says the Blue Jays "will not settle for fringe prospects in return" for relievers Scott Downs and Jason Frasor, and they could use them to continue the rebuilding effort.
  • Rosenthal adds that Gary Sheffield is talking to a NL club, though it's not clear which one. 
  • Meanwhile, Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com notes that both Jamey Wright and Austin Kearns have out clauses in their contracts, but a club official said the provisions will not impact the makeup of the team. A source added that there are "no trades on the horizon" for Cleveland.

Odds & Ends: Gonzalez, Scott, Phillies, Indians

A wrap-up of some items as we head into the weekend…

  • Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle wonders if the Athletics erred in dealing promising outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to Colorado.
  • MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli says that the Orioles are holding off on any potential Luke Scott trades until they see if Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold are healthy and can handle regular roles.
  • Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock tells MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that the team isn't looking at free agent relievers to fill in for the injured Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero: "We're keeping our eyes open, but we're not actively pursuing. People are calling us more than we're calling them."
  • The Indians have no interest in the recently-released Elijah Dukes, reports The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes.
  • Speaking of the Tribe, they announced in a press release that seven players were optioned to their minor league camp, the most notable of these being top catching prospect Carlos SantanaIndians GM Mark Shapiro told Hoynes that Santana was being sent down to work on his defense, but noted that Santana will "be on an accelerated program" due to his impressive bat.  The ESPN Insider Rumors page speculates that the club may have made the move to delay the start of Santana's major league service time.
  • In the wake of Cliff Lee's suspension, abdominal strain and possible DL stint, Dave Cameron of the U.S.S. Mariner blog notes (via Twitter) that signing Jarrod Washburn as a replacement wouldn't work since Washburn wouldn't be fit for the start of the season anyway.
  • MLB.com's Marty Noble covers several topics in a reader mailbag, including how Mets prospect Fernando Martinez "is less likely trade bait now" than he has been in the past two years.
  • Arn Tellem, Hideki Matsui's agent, was originally told by the outfielder that he wanted to play in the majors for 10 years, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Matsui is about to enter his eighth season, and though his current contract with the Angels is just for the 2010 campaign, I suspect the 2009 World Series MVP will last that full decade.

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."