The Orioles’ first transaction of 2022 was one of the only moves that are permitted under Major League Baseball’s ongoing lockout of its players.
Baltimore signed second baseman/left fielder Shed Long to a minor league deal, a source with direct knowledge of the agreement confirmed Wednesday. Long, 26, played parts of the past three seasons with the Seattle Mariners, primarily as a second baseman and left fielder. Having posted a career .791 OPS in the minors since the Cincinnati Reds drafted him in 2013′s 12th round, Long hit .216/.284/.376 with 12 home runs and eight steals in 110 games with Seattle.
Because the owners have locked out major league players as the two sides negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, teams aren’t able to adjust their 40-man rosters, which includes signing players to major league contracts. On the verge of the lockout, the Orioles agreed to a major league deal with right-hander Jordan Lyles, but the contract is pending a physical and won’t be finalized until the lockout is lifted, presumably whenever a new CBA is in place.
The owners could lift the lockout at any time and allow the league to proceed under the previous CBA while negotiations for the new one continue. Orioles pitchers and catchers were supposed to report to Sarasota, Florida, on Tuesday to mark the start of major league spring training. Opening Day of the regular season, scheduled for March 31, is further in peril with each day that passes without a new agreement.
The minor league season, though, is unaffected. The Orioles’ minor league portion of spring training is scheduled to begin Feb. 28, with their Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, beginning its season April 5 and the remaining full-season affiliates starting April 8.
It’s unclear how the Orioles or any team will handle players not on their 40-man roster who could be candidates for their Opening Day roster if major league spring training is ongoing or yet to begin when the minor league season starts. Baltimore’s 40-man roster, frozen at 38 members not including Lyles, does not feature any catchers, but Jacob Nottingham and Anthony Bemboom, backstops with major league experience who signed minor league agreements in December, are candidates to crack the roster, as is top overall prospect Adley Rutschman. Before signing Long, the Orioles hadn’t made a transaction since signing Bemboom and right-hander Matt Vogel on Dec. 16.
Long did not play after July 28 because of a right shin stress reaction. He broke the bone during the 2020 season and has had three stints on the injured list as a result. When healthy, he’ll provide depth as another left-handed option for the Orioles’ infield, where Rougned Odor is the club’s only left-handed hitting infielder with major league experience. Long has a .694 career OPS against right-handed pitchers, an above-average mark for the league, with 10 of his 12 career home runs coming against them. He’s also been a much more successful hitter away from Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, posting a slugging percentage more than 100 points higher on the road.
ESPN first reported the Orioles’ signing of Long.