Should the Jays Bring in Elijah Dukes?

As posted on hotstove.com, Elijah Dukes has been released by the Washington Nationals. He is only 25, had 1 option remaining, and at one time a very prominent prospect in the baseball world with the Rays and Nats. The performance definitely hasn’t lived up to the hype that was built up before he reached the majors. Baseball America ranked Elijah as the 6th best prospect for the Rays in their 2007 edition of the Prospect Handbook, ahead of pitchers Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson, so you know the talent is there for him to tap into. The key quote in their assessment was this: “If he can stay focused and control himself, he could develop into an impact player.”This fact hasn’t changed one bit since 2007 and the Nationals worked very hard to get Elijah set in a positive direction. After getting him a mentor, an adviser, and giving him all of the chances to prove himself on the field, the Nationals have finally given up and basically said “we tried our best and we have better options, so we’re headed in a new direction.” Is this an opportunity for other teams to cash in or their hard work?

We all know that Travis Snider is having some performance issues. I know the majority of us are pulling for him to get better with experience and that he needs to get ABs in order to make this happen, but would it be to Snider’s benefit to head to AAA to begin 2010 and to try Elijah out in RF? We know he’ll come cheap because the Nationals stated that a trade couldn’t be worked out. Whether or not he wants to come to Toronto is another issue, but chances are he’ll come if we promise playing time and a chance to see what he’s got. If Elijah comes in, does well, and taps into his potential, we win in two different ways. First, Snider does well in AAA and pushes his way back to the Jays at Elijah’s expense, the Jays could decide to trade him after he’s driven his value up and he’d be really attractive due to the low cost associated with his acquisition. The second option for the Jays if he’s not playing well is to send him down to AAA, which enhances their depth in the OF and still allows to work out a deal if he gets hot in the minors and another team is faced with injuries.

What would the consequences be for the Jays? Time, energy, and a chance of frustration in the locker room. Players can be negatively affected by a player like Elijah because he demands so much space and attention. The Jays would also have to dedicate someone to0 look over his shoulder to make sure he doesn’t get out of line and create bigger issues within the organization. However, as he has matured Elijah has become less intrusive and should get a little more level headed (or we’d like to think, sometimes that doesn’t happen as Milton Bradley has proven). As he reaches 26 and 27 years of age, could he become less of a headache and actually contribute positively to a team? Why not?

I’m not sure how I would feel if Alex Anthopolous decided to add someone like Elijah Dukes to the OF competition. On the one hand, my talent radar is saying “bargain talent available, let’s grab it!”. On the other hand, my management hat is saying “one major headache with a really bumpy past, let’s move on.”

We’ll see where Elijah Dukes lands since I do know that this move will have caught many teams by surprise. AA will do his homework as usual and should be able to assert a good decision from there. Do I think they should bring Dukes in? No, I believe they brought enough backup OFers into spring without having to add Elijah to the list. But, that doesn’t mean that they won’t do it in order to get the opportunity to cash in if his value were to rise after acquiring him.

Just a thought.

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