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After dealing Milledge, Nationals continue outfield shakeup by demoting Dukes to Triple-A

Jul 1, 2009, 12:39 PM EDT

One day after shaking up their outfield by sending Lastings Milledge to the Pirates while bringing in Nyjer Morgan, the Nationals demoted Elijah Dukes to Triple-A this morning.

Dukes hasn’t been a disaster at the plate, batting .244/.308/.415 with
six homers and 20 total extra-base hits in 57 games, but he struggled
in June and the Nationals are reportedly unhappy with his defense, baserunning, and overall approach.

All of which sounds an awful lot like their reasoning for selling low
on Milledge, complete with not realizing that struggling in center
field doesn’t preclude someone from being a defensive asset in a corner
spot. Milledge is now out of the picture completely and Dukes is headed
to Syracuse, yet Austin Kearns sticks around despite hitting
.197/.330/.322 in 58 games this season after batting .217/.311/.316 in
2008.

The difference, of course, is that Milledge and Dukes are both young
players with minor-league options remaining and some value on the trade
market while Kearns is a 29-year-old veteran making $8 million. So
instead of writing him off as a sunk cost and giving his playing time
to younger outfielders in what’s destined to be another 100-loss season
the Nationals are … well, I’m not entirely sure what the Nationals
are doing.

A mid-April demotion to Triple-A paved the way for Milledge being
traded and if they take that path with Dukes the Nationals will have
parted with two promising-yet-troubled outfielders when their values
were at all-time lows. Dukes has flaws both on and off the field, but
he’s hit .237/.345/.435 with 29 homers, 66 total extra-base hits, and
101 walks in 190 games, is a good defensive corner outfielder, and
turned 25 last week.

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