The Mariners announced Monday that second baseman Shed Long underwent a “closed reduction intermedullary fixation of his right tibia on Sept. 22 to repair a stress fracture in his right shin.” He’s expected to be able to participate in Spring Training games next year, per the club.
Originally a Reds draftee — 12th round, 2013 — Long rose through the ranks to become one of Cincinnati’s more promising prospects in 2018. The Reds sent Long and a Competitive Balance Round A selection to the Yankees in exchange for Sonny Gray, however, and the Yankees immediately flipped Long to the Mariners for outfield prospect Josh Stowers in what effectively amounted to a three-team swap.
Long, who turned 25 last month, made his big league debut with the Mariners in 2019 and got out to an impressive start, hitting .263/.333/.454 with five homers, a dozen doubles, a triple and three steals through 168 trips to the plate as a rookie. He opened the 2020 season as the everyday option at second base but floundered after a decent start to the season, posting a .451 OPS in his final 24 games.
Overall, through 296 career plate appearances, Long is a .223/.294/.383 hitter. He’s walked in nine percent of his plate appearances but saw his strikeout rate climb from 23.8 percent as a rookie to 29.8 percent in 2020. While Long’s bat-to-ball skills and overall offensive output trended in the wrong direction this year, though, his glovework seemingly ticked up. Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average all agree that Long’s defense at second base improved markedly this season.
Long wouldn’t blame his 2020 struggles on the stress fracture, but both he and Mariners skipper Scott Servais said earlier this month that it’s an injury which had plagued him throughout the season (link via MLB.com’s Greg Johns). Asked whether he debated shutting down earlier than he did, Long told Johns and other reporters: “You tell any person in America or anywhere for that matter that they’re going to be the starting second baseman for any Major League team, that’s not an opportunity that’s always presented to you. No matter what, I’m trying to make the most of this opportunity.”
It’s an admirable take, and Long described himself as a “high pain-tolerance guy.” That pain grew too considerable when he fouled a ball into the area of the stress fracture, however. He’ll now take the offseason to rehab and prep for what will be a more crowded competition at second base in 2020. The Mariners acquired Ty France in the trade that sent Austin Nola to the Padres, and versatile Dylan Moore surely piqued the club’s interest with a big season of his own.
Long has experience in the outfield, logging 130 innings in left field with the Mariners since his debut, and he’s tallied eight innings at third base as well. Each of Long, France and Moore have a minor league option remaining after this season (multiple, in Moore’s case), which would allow the Mariners to get someone regular work in Tacoma if playing time in the big leagues is too hard to come by. If nothing else, that level of depth is a welcome “problem” to consider as Seattle continues to take its next steps in emerging from a rebuilding process.