Luke Scott, the outspoken, energetic slugger who spent four seasons in Baltimore and was named the 2010 Most Valuable Oriole, has agreed to a one-year deal with the division-rival Tampa Bay Rays that includes a 2013 option, according to an industry source.
Exact terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
Scott, 33, was in his final year of arbitration after making $6.4 million in an injury-marred 2011 that ended in July, when he decided to have season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. In December, the Orioles decided not to tender him a contract -- he would have made at least $6 million and likely more -- and allowed him to become a free agent.
There was talk that the club wanted him back on a lesser deal, but the Orioles never made a push this offseason to re-sign him.
The Rays, the closest big league team to Scott’s Florida home, were looking for power and had an opening at designated hitter with last year’s primary DH, Johnny Damon, likely going elsewhere as a free agent. Scott, who is in the midst of his intense offseason workout regimen, expects to be ready by spring training at the plate and in the outfield, assuming his throwing shoulder has fully recovered.
When healthy, Scott has proven to have plenty of power. He hit 23 or more homers each season from 2008 to 2010 before being limited to nine home runs in 64 games in 2011. In 2010, his best season, Scott bashed an Orioles-high 27 homers while driving in 72 runs and hitting .284 with a .368 on-base percentage.
Scott was popular inside the clubhouse and polarizing away from it. One of the friendlier, more fan-accessible players in recent team history, Scott often was showered by chants of “Luuuke” when he came to the plate at Camden Yards.
But Scott also ruffled feathers along the way with his conservative political stances and continual vocalization of his devout Christian beliefs. He appeared several times on national programs as an unyielding supporter of gun rights, and his proclamation in December 2010 that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States engulfed him in a mini controversy.
He also ticked off some opponents — including the Rays and their former starting pitcher Matt Garza — for his exuberant home run celebrations, which prompted former teammate Kevin Millwood to say that Scott hits the “happiest” long balls in baseball.
Yet Scott never seemed fazed by the attention — negative or positive — and never shied from answering questions or engaging in debates with teammates. His “tough love” approach with enigmatic teammate Felix Pie also garnered rave reviews from the Orioles’ front office.
The Orioles acquired Scott in December 2007 in a five-for-one deal with the Houston Astros for infielder Miguel Tejada. Only reliever Troy Patton remains with the Orioles from that trade.
The Rays' first trip to Baltimore in 2012 will be May 11-13.