I have long advocated that the Yankees give Elijah Dukes a shot on their bench. With Curtis Granderson hurt, Randy Winn struggling, and Marcus Thames occupying the DH slot, the time is right for the addition of another bat. Yes, I know the offense is just fine and that the Yankees are a playoff team without Dukes. But the difference between Dukes and Winn could make a difference in October, and unlike other external bench options, it will not cost the Yankees any players to obtain Dukes.
I outlined the pros and cons during the offseason:
1) He has plenty of talent: He had a poor 2009 that was marred by injury and a strange loss of power, but his 2008 was fantastic and suggested that he was a star in the making. I am not really sure why he fell of a cliff in 2009, but it is clear that he has the skills and athleticism to be an above average player with the bat and adequate with the glove.
2) He projects to be better than the Yankees current options at 4th and 5th outfielder. His projected wOBA based on an average of four projection systems is .346, significantly better than that of Marcus Thames and Randy Winn.
3) This is a good fit for Dukes: While he may not start right away, New York is likely his best shot to play in a winning environment for the first time while also affording him a reasonable chance of grabbing a starting spot. Being that Dukes has played for two awful franchises thus far, it might be a strong motivator for him to play with regularity for a winner.
4) He’s cheap, you can cut ties immediately if there is a problem, and he gives them options next offseason: Dukes will likely require less than a million dollars to sign, and can be stashed in the minors if he does not make the team immediately. Furthermore, there is no real downside here. If he acts up or plays poorly, he can simply be cut or traded without any repercussions.
1) His performance dropped in 2009, and he cannot stay healthy: His performance in 2009 was fairly shoddy, and he gained a reputation amongst National fans for having poor baseball instincts in the field and on the basepaths. Furthermore, Dukes has had trouble staying on the field, with 4 stints on the DL over the last 2 seasons. Then again, if he gets hurt, the Yankees would simply be right back where they are right now.
2) There are some very serious behavioral issues. I do not want to sweep these under the rug, because Elijah has had some serious issues that include multiple arrests and prompted the Nationals to hire someone to follow him around and keep him out of trouble. Furthermore, dropping that a player with that sort of history into the shark tank that is the NY media frenzy may not be the brightest of ideas.
Ultimately, I think it is worth a shot. As I noted above, if Dukes does not work out, the club is right back where they started and can go look for other options. If he succeeds, the Yankees will have obtained a young power bat for practically nothing. Why not give him a shot?