About six weeks ago, I wrote the following about Elijah Dukes:
The Nationals have a crowded outfield, with Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Milledge, and Dukes. Dukes seems to be the most likely to be traded, and his malcontent status is likely to keep any return for him fairly low. With the questions that the Yankees have in CF and the fact that most of their outfielders are free agents following the season, the Yankees would be well served by looking into a deal for Dukes. A deal built around Ian Kennedy may be a good starting point, with the Yankees throwing in another upper level prospect and some filler.
At the time, it seemed obvious to me that Dukes would start for the Nats, with Dunn going to 1B and Kearns headed to the bench. However, being that the Nats are a poorly run organization, it should not surprise anyone that they have decided to start Kearns over Dukes, ignoring Elijah’s immense potential and Kearns’ consistent decline. However bad the decision may be, it does signal that Dukes may be available. Josh Willingham has been sent to the bench as well, for the immortal Willie Harris, but he is unlikely to draw nearly as much interest as Dukes and would likely be more valuable to the team if they kept him.
If I were Brian Cashman, I would strongly consider swinging a deal for Dukes. The Nats have a very weak farm system, so that the Yankees may be able to put together a package of pitchers enticing enough to aquire the mercurial outfielder. He would fill the Melky Cabrera role in 2009, as he is a much better bat than Melky, is not appreciably worse in the field, and runs as well as, if not better than, Cabrera. He would allow the Yankees to field offers on Xavier Nady at the deadline, and could slot into left field in 2010 when Damon and Nady leave. At worst, he would give the Yankees the ability to walk away from Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Manny Ramirez if the cost got too high.
Finally, in regard to his attitude, the Yankees seem to be well equipped to deal with that sort of issue. They have some veteran leadership, as well as some “cooler” vets such as Burnett and Sabathia who may be able to connect with Dukes on a personal level. I think that his immense talent makes him worth the risk.
What do you think? Good idea, or does his history scare you off?