The Orioles decided Monday not to tender a 2012 contract to outfielder Luke Scott, allowing their 2010 Most Valuable Oriole to become a free agent, according to an industry source.
The decision is not a surprise considering that Scott, 33, batted just .220 and was limited to 64 games because of a torn labrum. Scott's 2011 salary was $6.4 million, and through arbitration he could have made at least $6 million in 2012.
Manager Buck Showalter did not confirm the nontender but seemed resigned to it when he was reached by telephone late Monday afternoon. He said he hoped that a deal would eventually be struck to allow Scott to continue his Orioles career.
“I don't look at it like we're parting ways with Luke,” Showalter said. “I hope we can work something out with Luke on a contract where he can be part of the Orioles and get back to where he was before the injury. Sometimes there are business decisions that have to be made, but I just hope we can do something that makes sense from a risk standpoint.”
Scott, who had right shoulder surgery in July and expects to be fully healed by spring training, is in Venezuela doing missionary work and could not be reached for comment.
It's possible he could re-sign with the Orioles at a lesser salary, but the two sides had not discussed specifics as of Monday afternoon.
Scott, who has appeared in 471 games for the Orioles in the past four seasons, was one of the more popular players in the clubhouse and a polarizing figure off the field. Always smiling and accessible, Scott became a fan favorite in 2010, when he hit a team-leading 27 homers and posted a .284 batting average.
In June, when the Camden Yards video screen announced that it was Scott's 33rd birthday, he received a loud ovation and took a curtain call during the game, a rather unusual development.
But the Florida native also had his detractors because he was never shy in expressing his views or afraid to rankle those who opposed his opinions, whether it was espousing his devout Christian beliefs or his conservative political stances, which included his assertion that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
A ninth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2001 out of Oklahoma State, Scott and left-handed reliever Troy Patton were the only remaining players from the December 2007 deal that sent shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for five players.
The Orioles, who had nine players to decide on by Monday's midnight deadline, also decided not to offer pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes a contract but kept Brad Bergesen.
Bergesen, a 26-year-old right-handed pitcher, was the biggest surprise of 2009, when he went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 19 starts and looked to be a future rotation mainstay. But injuries limited his effectiveness in 2010 and he split time in the Orioles' rotation, bullpen and Triple-A in 2011, posting a 2-7 record and a 5.70 ERA in 34 games (12 starts) for the Orioles.
A fourth-round pick in 2004, Bergesen still has a minor league option remaining, meaning he doesn't have to be exposed to waivers if sent to the minors in 2012. And that increases his value to teams. Bergesen made $434,000 last year but was Super 2-eligible this season — he gets a fourth year of arbitration because of his service time — and could get more than $1 million based on his experience as a reliever and starter.
Reyes, 28, was claimed off waivers in August from the Toronto Blue Jays. The lefty posted a 6.16 ERA for the Orioles in nine games (five starts).
With the acquisition of left-hander Dana Eveland in a trade last week, and the Orioles' continued interest in other starting pitchers and relievers in the free-agent and trade markets, Reyes seems to be expendable.
The other six arbitration-eligible Orioles — outfielder Adam Jones, infielder Robert Andino and pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson, Darren O'Day and Eveland — are expected to be tendered contracts.
Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this report.