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Why Is Luke Scott Still in Baltimore?

Posted By Matt Klaassen On August 11, 2010 @ 4:00 pm In Daily Graphings | 22 Comments

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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