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01/13/09 12:38 PM EST
Mariners hope to have Fields for camp
Unsigned right-hander remains at contract impasse
By Jim Street / MLB.com
With Spring Training one month away, the Mariners remain hopeful that still-unsigned right-hander Josh Fields will be among the pitchers reporting to camp in Peoria, Ariz. "We have had discussions with his agent, Scott Boras, both in Las Vegas and again with him last week," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said during his guest appearance on the KIRO Hot Stove League show. "Sometimes these things are a little sensitive, but we are having discussions." The Mariners, selecting 20th in the First-Year Player Draft last June, chose Fields, a hard-throwing reliever who helped the University of Georgia reach the finals of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Former club executives Bill Bavasi, the general manager, and scouting director Bob Fontaine expected Fields to sign shortly after the College World Series. The organization offered the All-American closer $1.5 million, but under the advice of Boras, Fields held out for $2 million. Neither side budged, so Zduriencik inherited the contract impasse when he became the Mariners GM in October. "I would hope that Josh wants to play," Zduriencik said. "There is an awful lot in his favor. He would be signing with a club that could use pitching, as every ballclub in baseball can. But again, it takes two of us [to get it done]. "We have our position and they have their position. Scott has been very gracious in our discussions of late. I don't have an answer right now. We'll try to go down that road and see how it works out." If the Mariners are unable to sign Fields by the end of May, he would regain his Draft eligibility and become available in the First-Year Player Draft, scheduled for the first week of June. As compensation, the Mariners would receive the 21st overall selection in the Draft. And, along with their own selection -- second overall -- the Phillies' first-round pick (28th overall), and supplemental Draft choice (34th overall for losing Raul Ibanez to free agency) Seattle could wind up with basically four first-round selections. Fields was named the 2008 National Stopper of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The 6-foot, 178-pound native of Hull, Ga., also was named as a First Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and the SEC Pitcher of the Year by the league coaches. He ranked second in the NCAA in saves last season with a school record 18 while posting a 3-2 record and 3.38 ERA. When selected by the Mariners, club officials envisioned Fields taking the fast track to the Major Leagues, similar to what right-hander Brandon Morrow did in 2006. Morrow, the fifth overall Draft choice out of the University of California-Berkeley, needed just 16 innings in the Minor Leagues before making his Major League debut. Instead, Fields could become the first unsigned No. 1 Draft choice since John Mayberry in 2002.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.