Luke Scott’s long rat tail hair and mutton chop sideburns made Scott one of the few players that fans could recognize without checking the number or name on his back. The Rays signed Scott as a free agent in 2012. They must have hoped that Scott, a Central Florida native born in DeLeon Springs and a graduate of DeLand High School, could regain his batting stroke and back up first base and the outfield. Instead Scott struggled in 2012, spent a great deal of time on the DL, and suffered a long hitless streak. He appeared in 96 games and hit 14 home runs, but batted only .229 with a low .285 on base average. The Rays didn’t pick up his option for 2013 but instead signed Scott as a free agent for 2013 for $2.75 million, a little more than half his 2012 salary.
Sep 27, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays pinch hitter Luke Scott (30) reacts after striking out in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Toronto defeated Tampa Bay 6-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
It looked like a good gamble at the time. Scott was healthy and hit well during spring training until right before the season started when a strained right calf put Scott on the disabled list. When he finally returned to the lineup he started strong with a batting average over .300 and on base average over .400 after 8 games and for a while, he just didn’t slow down. In 229 plate appearances from May 1 to July 21 Scott hit .279 with a .367 on base average and .497 slugging percentage. He was one of the Rays most effective hitters and won some games with big hits, including a game against Houston in July. Unfortunately, Scott couldn’t sustain that level of performance for long. He slumped and suffered from injuries and lost much of his effectiveness.
Scott went on the DL with back spasms in August. When he returned to the Rays in September, he was minus mutton chops and rat tail, and minus a job. Left-handed hitting David DeJesus and righty Delmon Young took over most of Scott’s at bats. Scott hardly played during the September stretch drive and when he did play he didn’t contribute. It was clear that even for pinch-hitting situations off the bench, Joe Maddon thought he had better options including Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson. Although Maddon said it was a tough decision, to most observers it appeared a foregone conclusion that the Rays would leave Scott off the postseason roster. There just wasn’t a role for him on the team any more.
Scott is officially a free agent, but it doesn’t appear that the Rays have any plans to re-sign him. He’ll be 36 in 2014 coming off three straight years hitting like a replacement-level DH. It’s unlikely anyone will give Scott guaranteed money next year, but it’s possible teams looking for a left handed DH or first baseman will invite him to camp. Given his age and mediocre hitting over the last three years, Scott’s career may be in danger if he doesn’t turn it around quickly in 2014.