Due in part to others being injured, Dukes began this season as
Tampa Bay's starting center fielder. The rookie batted .190 with 10
homers and 21 RBIs in 52 games.
He was optioned to the minors on June 22 and placed on the
temporary inactive list after he was accused of violating a
protective court order his estranged wife obtained after she said
the 23-year-old Dukes threatened her and the couple's children.
"We have a plan in place for him," Nationals general manager
Jim Bowden said. "His book hasn't been written yet. Just the first
two chapters. The rest of the book has a chance to be special."
Last week, the Rays traded right fielder Delmon Young to
Minnesota in a six-player deal that brought pitcher Matt Garza to
Tampa Bay. Young, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft
and runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year this season, famously
flipped his bat into the chest of a Triple-A umpire in 2006 and
received a 50-game suspension.
Young got a three-game ban in 2005 for bumping an umpire in
Double-A. He also argued with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon during a
late-season game after he was removed for not running out a
"We have been committed to providing Elijah the support needed
to get his personal and professional life back on track," Rays
senior vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
"He has made progress, and a logical next step is a change of
cities and a fresh start for him and his family."
Young's brother, Dmitri Young, plays first base for the Nationals.
He's had issues of his own -- he was released by the Detroit Tigers
during the 2006 season after a year that included an assault
charge, treatment for alcoholism and a divorce. But when he joined
the Nationals he became the type of respected, vocal leader the
rebuilding team needed.
"We were rewarded beyond our wildest dreams with Dmitri,"
Nationals president Stan Kasten said, adding that Dukes will remain
in counseling. "I'd be proud to become an organization that gives
guys a second chance and thrives because of it."
Dmitri Young was involved in vetting Dukes and encouraged
management to make the deal, Kasten said. Young will take an active
role in the support system that will attempt to keep Dukes out of
"Dmitri said something recently," Kasten relayed. "He said,
'I'm here to pay back for people who gave me a second chance.' He
had never said that to us before, but it was nice to hear."
Bowden said Dukes can play all three outfield positions, throw
runners out and steal bases. He hit eight homers in a 31-day span
for Tampa Bay this year.
"I am excited about getting a fresh start with an up-and-coming
franchise," Dukes said in a statement. "It's an important move
for my career and gives me the chance to prove myself both on and
off the field. I appreciate this opportunity and am looking forward
to meeting the fans of Washington, D.C., as we move into a brand
Washington manager Manny Acta went to see Dukes in winter ball
and came away impressed.
"None of us should turn our backs on a 23-year-old," Acta
said. "It's never too late to become a better person. This kid is
not 91 years old, he's 23."
Dukes is the second talented outfield prospect the Nationals
have acquired in the past four days. Last week, they traded catcher
Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church to the Mets for Lastings Milledge, who had several missteps with New York.
Gibson, a 20-year-old left-hander, went 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA in
12 starts for Class-A Vermont this season.
"We like him very much. It was hard to part with him," Bowden
said. "You'll always trade a rookie ball 19-year-old when you have
a chance to get a bat that's knocking on the door of the majors."
Gibson's father, Paul, pitched for the Detroit Tigers, New York
Mets and Yankees in a big league career that lasted from 1988-96.