The Seattle Mariners made a surprise cut to their 40-man roster last week by outrighting Shed Long Jr. to Triple-A. Long will become a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series but his skill set is one that the SF Giants typically target.
SF Giants: Impending free agent fits organizational model
Long was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 12th round of the 2013 draft out of Jacksonville High School in Jacksonville, Alabama. He came up as a well-regarded prospect where he registered a .273/.352/.439 line across eight minor-league seasons.
This includes a 9.9 percent walk rate against a 22 percent strikeout rate, so he controlled the strike zone in a way that the Giants emphasize at every rung of the organizational ladder. Long was the key piece in a trade to the New York Yankees that sent Sonny Gray to the Reds in January of 2019. Interestingly, he was shipped to the Mariners for Josh Stowers on that same day.
The left-handed bat made his debut with the Mariners in 2019 where he recorded a .263/.333/.454 line (112 OPS) with five home runs, 15 RBI, and 13 runs scored in 168 plate appearances. That turned out to be his best season with Seattle as he struggled in the ensuing two seasons.
In total, Long produced a .216/.284/.376 line (81 OPS+) with 12 home runs, 41 RBI, and 44 runs scored in three seasons with the Mariners. However, the 26-year-old battled a nagging injury in his right shin that has spanned multiple years. His 2020 season ended after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right shin, but it appears that he underwent a second procedure within the last couple of weeks.
On defense, Long has played only second base and left field in his three seasons with the Mariners but he does have experience all around the field as a pro. Interestingly, he had some experience behind the plate much earlier in his career.
This is exactly the type of skill set that the Giants take a chance on whether it be Thairo Estrada, Alex Dickerson, LaMonte Wade Jr., Jason Vosler, or Mike Yastrzemski. All five of these players performed well in the minors but struggled to find an opportunity with the teams that drafted them. Then, they came over to the Giants and carved out productive roles.
Long could be the next in line of overlooked players who come to the right environment and blossom into a major leaguer. The good news is that the left-handed bat is not likely in the market for a guaranteed contract.
He is probably seeking a minor league deal with a chance to compete for a roster spot in spring training. The Giants will be in the market for a good role player as Donovan Solano is slated to hit free agency and Dickerson is a non-tender candidate. Signing Long to a minor league deal has no downside.
The Giants are prioritizing starting pitching this offseason but they are always in the market for improving around the margins. Long has the upside to become a shrewd addition by the front office and help to strengthen the Giants roster next year.