Nationals Inexplicably Release Elijah Dukes, Their Starting Right Fielder

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Nationals Not Considering Jermaine Dye As Dukes Replacement

Just this morning, after the Washington Nationals granted an unconditional release to presumed starting right fielder Elijah Dukes, there was a lot of chatter about how the team planned to give Dukes' playing time to a group of internal replacements. However, with Jermaine Dye still on the market, attention naturally drifted in his direction, as some began to wonder whether GM Mike Rizzo would go high-profile. Says Rizzo: No.

Rizzo also said the Nationals will consider looking outside the organization for a replacement, although they team has not discussed free agent Jermaine Dye.

The 36 year old Dye has clobbered 187 home runs over the past six years, but he's spent all of that time playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark, and the slugger is also known as one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball. So while he comes with considerable name value, he is not a good fit in Washington, and Rizzo's front office recognizes as much.


Nationals Release Elijah Dukes

The 25 year old Elijah Dukes, an outfielder with a boat load of talent and two boat loads of history, has been released by the Washington Nationals, according to Mark Zuckerman:

The #Nats just announced they've unconditionally released Elijah Dukes.

Dukes was expected to be Washington's starting right fielder, so the move comes as a complete surprise. Given that he had options remaining, he could've simply been sent to the minors, which makes an unconditional release a highly unusual decision. Yet, everybody involved with the team insists that this was a baseball decision and nothing more. According to Adam Kilgore and countless others, this is simply a matter of the Nationals believing they can get more from backups Justin Maxwell, Willie Harris, Mike Morse, and Roger Bernadina.

Still, it isn't hard to look at this situation from the outside and conclude that there's more to this story than Dukes simply not producing up to expectations. Said GM Mike Rizzo:

"No singular incident" that caused Dukes release. He also said the #Nats will be a "more cohesive and united group."

This hints at Dukes being perceived as more trouble than he's worth, a disappointment on the field and a distraction in the clubhouse. Whether or not that's an adequate explanation is entirely up to the observer, but at least it's an explanation.

Dukes had a big year in 2008, but for his career, in nearly 1000 Major League trips to the plate, he's hit .242 with a .771 OPS and poor numbers in the field. He's also missed a lot of time the last two seasons with injuries to each of his legs. Expect him to generate a fair bit of interest as an available free agent, although given that most rosters are set by now, and that teams will be leery of Dukes' checkered past, it will not be easy for him to find an exciting new job.

Read more at Nats blog Federal Baseball.

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