Rays Re-Sign Luke Scott | The Process Report

Rays Re-Sign Luke Scott

Update: The Rays have reportedly agreed to sign designated hitter Luke Scott. Earlier in the off-season, the team declined his $6 million option for 2013. Below is the analysis from that decision which includes information on Scott’s struggles in 2012 and potential for improvement moving forward.

Oct 31:After years of pursuing Luke Scott, the Rays have put their relationship on hold following one up-and-down, injury-plagued season by declining his 2013 option.

Like other designated hitters before him, Scott and the Rays made sense on paper. The Rays needed a middle-of-the-order bat but did not have the funds to acquire one from the top tier of free agency. Scott was coming off surgery and needed a team where he could re-establish himself. The two sides took a chance on a short-term pact with some risk and some reward on the table. Unfortunately, risk won in 2012.

Scott was not terrible for the Rays, but his overall performance was not what the Rays—or he—envisioned. A candidate for the disabled list when signed, he missed 46 games in part to back and oblique injuries. When he was in the lineup, he was streaky to say the least—highlighted by an 0-41 streak during the summer. Still, he showed signs of life late in the season, providing hope going forward. Apparently, that hope was not worth $5 million.

Coming off shoulder surgery, Scott did answer questions about his power. It’s still there; especially versus right-handed pitching. He managed 37 extra-base hits including 14 home runs while playing his home games in an offense-depressing environment. On the other hand, his plate discipline took a turn for the worst as his on-base percentage dropped below .300 for the first time since his rookie season.

Watching aging sluggers like Scott along with Hideki Matsui and Carlos Pena last season re-introduced me to the old baseball adage of cheating on fastballs. As a player loses bat speed, he may cheat or guess that a pitcher will throw a fastball in a particular situation to make up for the decline in skill. Last year, Scott held his own on fastball as well as changeups—thrown with similar arm action as a fastball—but was left susceptible to anything with a bend. This was especially true on the first pitch of a plate appearance, leading me to believe he was geared up for the heat more often than not.

Despite the negatives, Scott was nearly a league-average hitter. Considering his second-half production, along with an off-season free of knives and rehab, there is a decent chance he can be above that line in 2013. Still, the risk of another injury and continued decline is real to the Rays or whoever signs Scott.

For the Rays, there are plenty of DH-types on the open market, but each with similar question marks, and some with more mileage than Scott. The team could look to re-allocate the $5 million saved on Scott elsewhere, and go with a cheaper, riskier, DH option or even a platoon. The latter, however, takes up another valuable roster spot. Or the team could dump their recent philosophy of aging hitters, and look to get younger. In another scenario, they could use the position to rotate regular starters, keeping them fresh with days off from the field.

Or, who knows, maybe Scott and the Rays will look to each other once more if the rest of the market fails to pan out.

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