Devil Rays (66-96)

We decided a while ago that we would no longer mention Elijah Dukes on this site unless it was baseball related. The last time we reported on Dukes we got a sneaking suspicion that his tenure with the Devil Rays was unofficially over, as the team gave away his #35 to Dan Wheeler, after he was acquired from the Astros via trade. Wheeler specifically requested the number, and the Rays granted his request. The move flew a bit under the radar, but was one way for the front office to send a very strong message to Dukes. Teams do not just give away the number of top-level prospect to a journeyman middle reliever.

Yesterday the Devil Rays announced that Dukes would be participating in the Domincan Republic winter league.

“Elijah continues to make great strides,” said Andrew Friedman, Devil Rays executive vice president of baseball operation. “We’re still at the point in the process where it would be premature to elaborate much more, but we feel like he is at the stage where it’s appropriate for him to go out and play some in the Winter League and take it from there.”

Does Dukes once again have a future with the Devil Rays? Not necessarily. The Rays outfield for 2008 is set with Carl Crawford, BJ Upton and Delmon Young from left-to-right. Undoubtedly there will be endless speculation of the Rays trading CC or Delmon for pitching help, but Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes will be ready to step in if needed. In other words, there is not a position on the major league club for Dukes in ’08.

Certainly Dukes would like to be traded to another organization where he can find a fresh start and compete for a spot on the 25-man roster. Unfortunately for Dukes and the Rays, his trade value could not be any lower. So at this point, the logical move for the Rays is to hold on to Dukes. Get him back on the diamond and wait. Wait for Dukes to once again establish himself as a top prospect. Wait for public disdain for Dukes to die down and be forgotten. Wait for an opening to occur naturally or wait for another organization to up the ante and look past Dukes’ troubled history.

The only problem with this scenario is what to do with Dukes in 2008. Obviously he will not be on the 25-man roster. And most likely he will not be welcome in Durham, where memories of the 2006 debacle of a season are still fresh on their minds. The Bulls and the Rays are also entering the final year of their affiliation contract and forcing Dukes on the local community may be seen as a slap to the face. Montgomery is possible, although Dukes had a checkered tenure his first time with that ballclub.

Vero Beach seems like the most likely destination. The organization would be able to keep a close eye on Dukes. His big name and prospect status could be seen as a way to draw fans to the ballpark. Also, 2008 will be the final year in which the Rays will have a minor league affiliate in Vero Beach as the team will move their high-A affiliate following the upcoming season. Therefore the front office does not need to worry about a permanent negative backlash from the community and the team.

Will Dukes ever play another game for the Rays? Our gut says ‘no’. More likely the team will try to find a trade partner following the 2008 season. Then again, if Dukes stays out of trouble and posts huge numbers in the minors during the 2008 season, we might see just how forgiving a team and their fans can be.

Dukes to play in Winter League [Devil Rays]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Why don’t we ever see this headline associated with the Devil Rays: “Phillies Have $20MM To Burn”…Oh yeah…because “Rays Have $200,000 To Burn” doesn’t have quite the same ring. [MLB Trade Rumors]
  • Three of the top six prospects from the Southern League are Devil Rays prospects. Evan Longoria (#2), Wade Davis (#3) and Reid Brignac (#6) were all named to the “Southern League Top 20 Prospect List” produced by Baseball America. Longoria was second only to BJ Upton’s lil’ brother Justin Upton, who made his major league debut this summer for the D-Backs and is a key contributor in their playoff push. [Baseball America]
  • And yet another proposal for relegation to be used in baseball. These people just don’t give up. We love non-American football, but this belief that soccer is “perfect” reeks of arrogance and is yet another reason why American’s will never take to the sport. [Jake and Susie In Spain]
 
 

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