Why Is Luke Scott Still in Baltimore?

The Orioles have had a nightmare season (to put it mildly). Their off-season moves were not particularly brilliant, but given the young talent on the team — as well as on the farm — there were reasons for optimism. Prior to the season, I wrote about the enviable collection of outfielders the Orioles had assembled: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Felix Pie, and Luke Scott. It seemed that Scott was likely to go. Little did anyone suspect that midway through August, Scott would not only still be on the Orioles, but be perhaps the team’s most valuable position player.

Given that Scott is 32 years old, heading into his third year of arbitration in 2010, and that the Orioles are a mess, one has to wonder why he’s still around. Sure, his trade value was probably hurt by his dreadful April but it was to be expected that he’d pull out of it, as he did with a May that was as monstrous as his April was terrible. While Scott’s current .396 wOBA is almost certainly far above his true talent, ZiPS RoS projects a .369 wOBA (.267/.345/.504) for Scott for the rest of the season. Even has a full-time DH, over a full season that would make him about a 2.5 WAR player in the current run environment. Moreover, Scott was a actually a pretty decent outfielder who was pushed to DH and 1B more because of the Orioles’ crowded outfield situation. One could make an argument for Scott currently being a 3.0 WAR player.

I suppose that some will say that I’ve answered my own question: Scott is still in Baltimore because he’s good. Funny thing about that, though… when it comes time to acknowledge that a fire sale is in order, we fans often start by saying that the team needs to get rid of its bad players who clearly aren’t helping the team, like, say, Miguel Tejada. However, if a team in a bad state actually wants to get a decent return, it is going to have to give up something of value. And in the case of Scott, they have something of value… at least to other teams. Scott is in his second arbitration year, and making about four million dollars. He is team controlled for both 2011 and 2012; my guess is that he will get somewhere between six and eight million dollars for 2011 if he goes to arbitration in the upcoming offseason. That’s still a very good deal for the team if we think he’ll be at least a 2 WAR (probably more like a 2.5 WAR) player in 2011. Adding in the surplus value he has for the remainder of the season, the Orioles could have expected at least a B prospect back, or a combination of lesser prospects. While Scott is currently good, by the time the Orioles might be good again, he probably won’t be — and the prospects might.

Different teams were, of course, rumored to be interested in Scott at the deadline (I’m not sure if he’s cleared waivers or not for a potential August trade). Perhaps the Orioles simply didn’t receive an offer to make it worth their time — Scott is worth more than a couple of fringe prospects, a la Scott Podsednik (and the Dodgers could certainly use Scott — Luke, that is). One has to wonder if Scott wasn’t a bit overlooked. For example, he would be a good alternative for a team that can’t pry Adam Dunn loose from the Nationals. Scott isn’t the hitter Dunn is, but with 50 or so games left, it isn’t that big a difference, Scott can play the outfield, and he’s under team control for 2011.

It is very possible that a good match for either side could not be found. Maybe the teams with the right prospects for Scott don’t need an LF/DH, maybe the contenders that could use him don’t have the the prospects. However, given Scott’s abilities and likely surplus value in 2011 as well as 2010, it’s hard to think that there isn’t some fitting trade partner out there, and thus wonder what Scott is still doing in Charm City.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

22 Responses to “Why Is Luke Scott Still in Baltimore?”

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  1. I know that the Orioles front office is hard to deal with but I am also wondering why a deal wasn’t made by the Dodgers. The Dodgers also gave away Blake DeWitt and now have Ryan Theriot as their 2B so the Dodgers aren’t averse to getting an old player (Pods is old too) and they clearly like slappy weak OFers over power-hitting OFers. Baffling!

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  2. Steve says:

    I’m sure the Yankees would have been interested, but Angelos would rather lose than make a fair trade with the Yankees.

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  3. Ivdown says:

    I wanted Scott so bad for the Dodgers…too freakin bad eh.

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  4. Josh says:

    O’s fan here.

    Here’s a challege: look at the open market and try finding a mature veteran with a .508 career slugging percentage for $4m per and with two arbitration years left.

    I’m pretty sure that’s hard to do. He’s got power not many other players on the Orioles have. Plus his hot-streaks are some of the most captivating and impressive week- to two-week spans a fan can witness.

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    • Well, by the time Scott gets to 2012, he probably won’t be cheap for his arbitration award. He’ll get at least $6M this offseason, which is fine, but will probably get at least $8M in 2011-2012, and will be 34…

      The Orioles can hold on to him in the off chance he’ll help them get to .500, or trade him for someone who will be even cheaper and help them in future days.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        So, over the course of 2 years, there’s a reasonable situation of getting 5 WAR (2 years combined) for $14M. Lemme do the math, 14 divide by 5, carry the 2, reduce to the lowest common denominator, and … you get 2.8M/W in an environment that calls the market 4.5M/W.

        So, it’s a pretty good deal for a player you can let walk after 2012, at age 34.

        Where’s the downside?

        I’d be interested in him as a Cardinal, but Jon Jay looks like he could be a 4 WAR player, for even less money.

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  5. Dan says:

    No need to trade him. That’s a young team that could really benefit from some success, as they’re experiencing now. That may take a bit of leadership. Scott won’t pull a top 100 prospect. There’s no point in giving him away for a player that might be good. He’ll be just as tradeable next year.

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  6. Ben says:

    Yeah I think this really illustrates a trend we’re likely to see grow: a pushback on the full-swing momentum of teams now overvaluing their prospects.

    From basically 1990-2005, it’s quite clear teams did not understand the absurd value of the years of cost control that came along with a minor league player. There was still an old-school mentality of veterans who know how to win ball games and lack of respect for punk kids who hadn’t proven anything yet. Then due to a number of factors, most significantly perhaps the SABR community and the growing discrepancy in payrolls, teams began to value their prospects more and more, to the point that they probably value them too much at this point and are almost never willing to part with a top-tier guy unless they get a star back (the Dodgers notwithstanding…)

    Here’s a situation where it just didn’t seem like any kind of market ever developed. If you’re the Orioles, and you’re in the AL East and already mired in what could very well be the worst season in franchise history, what’s the incentive to dealing Luke Scott for one B-level prospect? You’re talking about trading away the guy who’s been your best player for an unproven asset that does not project to be a star.

    In the AL East, you need star players to compete. When they traded Bedard, they got Jones and Tillman. When they traded Sherrill, they got Bell. But alienating your fans by trading away your cleanup hitter for a guy who could eventually be an average player (or two guys who could be major leaguers but not big-impact guys) just isn’t worth it. I applaud them for recognizing that a win today is more valuable than a win tomorrow, and not feeling obligated to deal him just for the sake of doing so.

    In today’s game, teams, even playoff contenders, simply aren’t willing to pay the price for a solid, above-average major league player. I’d love to be a fan of a team like the Rangers, who recognized their moment is now and their window is open and decided to make a play. The Phils’ did the same thing last year with Lee (then undid it…). More teams, such as the Padres or Reds for instance, need to realize that when that opportunity presents itself, you need to go for it and pay the price it’s going to take to get a player of Scott’s quality. But until that happens again, I don’t see any reason for these non-contenders to be content with not getting proper value back.

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    • Luke Scott is a good player, but he isn’t a star. You aren’t going to get a star back. Let’s assume he’ll get $6M in arbitartion, In 2011, as a 2.5 WAR player, that’s going to be worth about $11 million. That’s a $5M surplus. Let’s say he’s worth another $2M over the remainder of this season. (These are approximate estimates, of course). According to Victor Wang’s research as summarized here:


      $7M is typically worth a the average return good B prospect, maybe slightly better. Teams aren’t (or shouldn’t) be giving up a real Top 100 guy for that.

      In other words, a guy like Luke Scott or David DeJesus isn’t going to bring back a guy who profiles as the next Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran, but he might bring back a guy who might be another Luke Scott or David DeJesus. And that is a trade teams like the Orioles should be looking to make, giving up the decline years of their veterans for cheap replacements. I mean, sure, if they can find a team willing to give up a Jason Heyward or Carlos Santana for those guys, do it. But those sort of screw-jobs hardly ever happen, and they don’t have to for the trade to be smart for the team giving up the vet.

      Thanks for the comment.

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      • Steve Lee says:

        I suspect Andy is looking for a Heyward/Santana type prospect for Scott which is exactly why he’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to take a Josh Bell type of prospect for Luke. He’ll want a quality SS prospect or a pitching prospect with lots of upside. And that’s just the first piece.

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  7. Matt Walsh says:

    I believe Scott is only controlled through 2011. However, I don’t think it makes the decision to keep him on-board an ill-advised one. Over the past several years the Orioles FO has shown a willingness to deal major league players for prospects, when the right deal came along.

    They can always deal him in the off-season or at next year’s deadline, if need be. And I don’t think they’ll get a significantly lesser return

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    • Thanks for the comment. In checking mlbcontracts.blogspot.com, it seems that Scott’s service time has been manipulated such that he has a fourth arb year in 2012.

      Like I said in the post above, maybe the Orioles didn’t get a decent offer. I just find it hard to believe that a match couldn’t be found — the Orioles don’t have much of a reason to hold on to him, and there are plenty of teams that could use him.

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  8. Stu says:

    He’ll more than likely be there next year—they may compete a bit next year–perhaps a stretch, but his leadership presence cannot be discounted if they are halfway worthwhile. They may be in that kind of thought process

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  9. Boh says:

    I’m pretty sure if he can keep up that .396 wOBA and a .934 OPS (best for a DH), he wasn’t worth trading. This is probably a case where he was undervalued by the rest of the league relative to what he produces for the O’s. A .900 OPS with .287 ISO power is something the O’s can certainly use next year, for what they would likely receive in return, Luke Scott was certainly worth keeping. WAR is kind of a useless stat when it comes to DHs since they don’t play defense, you can only look at his offense, and when it comes to offense Scott is becoming a more consistent player.

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  10. SK says:

    Ryan Ludwick is the closest comp for Scott who got traded at the deadline, and the Padres had to give up literally nothing to get him. Now, Scott is better (by a bit) and cheaper (by a bit), but why in god’s name should the O’s give him up for Corey Kluber and Nicholas Greenwood plus a bit?

    I have to think that nobody was willing to pony up. Not to mention that MacPhail has demonstrated that he wants to be well-paid in terms of prospects (see: the Bedard, Tejada I, Sherrill, and Tejada II trades). If no one meets his price, he’s willing to not make a deal.

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  11. Sockmonkey says:

    Because on July 31, he still couldn’t run at full speed from his mid-July hamstring injury??

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  12. Beerman says:

    If the ChiSox were going to give up Edwin Jackson for Dunn, the O’s should run not walk right up to Ken Williams’s door and ask for the same deal for Scott. There’s _no way_ that all of the O’s pitching prospects end up panning out, and EJax is further along than most of them.

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  13. bill says:

    Scott is an interesting player. He may be better than his record. I think he has found a manager and a team that appreciates him. When he was in Houston, Phil Garner and Cecil Cooper did not like him. His stats were OK, but they said he was too prone to injury. They just didn’t like him and there were fans in Houston that felt the same way. For those fans, it seemed that they resented him pointing upward after a hit. He had a ton of fans that thought he was getting a “raw” deal.” Those fans encouraged the Astros to trade Scott and they started a rather large and active FREE LUKE SCOTT movement. Considering the plight of the Astros, they would have done well to keep Scott instead of investing in Carlos Lee.

    Like most players, he needs to see a steady place in the batting order and a manager that appreciates him. A lineup can have a huge effect on a player. Much depending who he follows and who follows him. Plus, the Orioles have seemed to know how to help him become a better hitter.

    Barring injury, he has several years left. He keeps himself in great shape for a baseball player.

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  14. KS says:

    As a long-suffering (and I mean VERY long) Orioles fan, I’d happily see Andy trade Luke for upside prospects. If no-one’s willing to part with at least two good prospects, or one high level prospect, for a 2.5-3 WAR player making $4M and arb eligible for 2 more years, then keep him.

    The notion, expressed here, that the O’s should trade Scott for a single prospect who projects to (possibly) be as good as Scott is now, seems idiotic to me. A prospect is a prospect, not a sure thing. You’ve got something that’s proven, you should only give him up for at least the possibility of getting something better down the road. Since there’s some probability that a prospect ends up being a bust, I need at least the possibility of him being better than the sure thing I give up.

    For the sake of argument, let’s (very simplistically), say an average prospect has a 50% probability of developing into what he’s projected to be. I’ve got 100% of something (Luke Scott), I’m not gonna trade him for 50% of the same thing.

    It’s a pretty simple equation.

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    • Casadilla says:

      Well said. There has to be a balance in the exchange: a prospect of potentially greater upside (but also the risk of bust), for an above average LFer with power who is good now, and under contract for a couple years on the cheap. I think the O’s are valuing Scott correctly if they are looking for a player who is potentially better than Scott, perhaps a 3.5-4 WAR player (say a Hunter Pence-type guy?).

      However, I would also think the O’s maybe be interested in a prospect with power, which may be valued a more than (potential) wins harnessed in a glove.

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    • Oscar says:

      Not that simple, since a win now is worth less to the Orioles than a win in two years, for obvious reasons. So trading a 3 win player now for a 50% chance to get a 3 win player in two years is not that absurd (not to mention that said future player would be younger, be under team control longer, and be cheaper). While this doesn’t decrease Scott’s trade value to the team acquiring him, it does decrease the Orioles’ leverage and therefore the potential return.

      However, I do think the O’s should just keep Scott (and Jeremy Guthrie) and enjoy the excellent and rare situation of having two quality veterans under team control through their entire prime, maximizing flexibility and value. If other teams don’t recognize their value, keep them and enjoy the 5-ish wins they’ll give you.

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