Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias attended Friday’s announcement of the Paul McCartney concert and afterward talked about a range of subjects, including the signing of utilityman Shed Long to a minor league contract. Long, who has played second base and left field, has a .210 lifetime batting average in 110 games during the last three seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
“We’re always looking for depth,” Elias said. “In Shed’s case, this is a guy that was a pretty major prospect, and he’s still young. He’s 26 years old. He’s had some health problems with his leg that have prevented him from really playing last year.”
Long played in 34 games for Seattle, hitting .198 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.
“We think in terms of a minor league signing that he’s going to provide a little bit more upside probably than you get in that category sometimes,” Elias said. “He can move around the field. We’re still putting together an infield competition and he’s going to be a big part of that, being able to play second base, third base. He can also play the outfield. I think it’s a nice addition to the organization.”
Early in the Major League Baseball lockout, which began on December 2nd, the Orioles signed a pair of catchers, Anthony Bemboom and Jacob Nottingham, to minor league deals. Long’s is the first signing of 2022, but Elias declined to answer whether more minor league deals were coming.
“I think we’ll get into roster composition when the time is right,” Elias said.
Elias couldn’t say whether some of the Orioles’ top prospects, including the most recent top picks, outfielders Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, would be able to participate in major league spring training, which could be significantly shorter than the proscribed six weeks.
“I’m in a position right now where talking about spring training in general is a little tough, but I think once the circumstances present themselves, we’re going to do everything we can with the opportunity to train all these guys,” Elias said.
“I think it’s going to be a very exciting year, up and down the organization. We’ve got young players coming to Sarasota soon … for minor league spring training. Right now, the organization is focused on that and the amateur scouting activities that are going on.”
Elias acknowledged the effect that Covid-19 has had on the sport.
“It’s been a trying couple of years for a lot of baseball teams just because of the pandemic,” he said. “That’s been the defining theme to the last few years.
“We’ve gotten really good and a lot of the baseball teams have gotten really good at handling unusual circumstances, remote training, making the most of strange circumstances. The gains that players have made in our farm system despite those challenges the last few years have been impressive and it’s a credit to our coaches and the players themselves.”
Just before the lockout, the Orioles reached an agreement on a one-year, $7 million contract with right-handed starter Jordan Lyles, who must pass a physical to make the contract official. Elias didn’t say whether there will be more free agents signed after the lockout.
“As the process is ongoing at the league and players’ level, I have a lot of trust in the people working on it,” Elias said. “Until that comes to a resolution, it’s not a great time to getting into aspects of adding to the roster or the free-agent market. I will say our entire organization has been working throughout the winter to be very, very prepared whenever we’re allowed to resume regular activity.”
Elias did say that the changes to left field were on schedule.
“I continue to think it’s a very important step for us,” he said. “The style of play here, while it’s created a lot of excitement and moments and great baseball at Oriole Park over the last 30 years, we’re looking ahead to the next 30 years. There’s going to be a lot of activity and refurbishment around the ballpark over the next several years.
“This is something we thought was important to get going right away. I think it’s going to create a more beneficial and appropriate style of play here at the park. It’s no secret that this has been an extreme home run park, arguably the most extreme home run park over the last 30 years, and it’s just not a real healthy way of playing your home games 81 times a year.
“We think this will go a long way to making this more of an average or normal-type of ballpark in terms of home runs. We think it will create a better style of play and be helpful for building a team.”
He’s also looking forward to the McCartney concert on June 12th. Elias saw McCartney perform at Minute Maid Park in Houston in 2013 when he was with the Astros.
“It was awesome,” Elias said. “To have that at Camden Yards is going to be one of the top moments in the long history of this place. I’m going to circle this one on my calendar and make sure I’m not on the road. I’ll definitely be here.”
Spring Training Games canceled: Major League Baseball announced that spring training games have been canceled through March 4th. The Orioles were scheduled to begin Grapefruit League play on February 26th in Sarasota, Florida against the New York Yankees. Also canceled were games at Tampa Bay (Feb. 27th), vs. Pittsburgh (Feb. 28th), at Minnesota (March 1st), vs. Boston (March 2nd), vs. Philadelphia (March 3rd) and at Yankees (March 4th).