08/18/09 11:20 AM ET
Tigers ink three, including first pick
Top pick Turner signs Major League deal with Detroit
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
First-round selection Jacob Turner signed a Major League contract that includes a $4.7 million bonus for the highly touted prep right-hander, and second-rounder Andrew Oliver and sixth-rounder Daniel Fields also agreed to choose pro over college ball with seven-figure contract bonuses.
Add a deal for 30th-round selection James Robbins, a left-handed high school pitcher from Shorecrest, Wash., and the Tigers have signed exactly half of their 50 picks, including nine of their top 10. It represents a major talent infusion for a club that has been aggressive in signing Draft picks over the past six years, and it came together in the final minutes of Monday night.
"It went as far as 11:55," scouting director David Chadd said.
The Tigers selected Turner with the ninth overall selection despite expectations that the right-hander with a mid- to upper-90s fastball and solid curve would seek a large contract to convince him to bypass his commitment to pitch at the University of North Carolina. His situation had many similarities to that of another high school pitcher the Tigers selected with their top pick two years ago, Rick Porcello.
Like Porcello, Turner was advised by agent Scott Boras, and the situation went into the final day or two before the mid-August deadline. Now, also like Porcello, Turner will be joining the Tigers organization under a big league deal.
Beyond the bonus, the four-year contract includes guaranteed split salaries through 2013 that would pay as much as $2.15 million total if he reaches the Majors immediately -- though that is unlikely -- or as little as $800,000 if he spends the next four years in the Minors.
In addition, the deal includes club options for 2014 and 2015 at $1 million if he spends both years in the Majors, or $500,000 each in the Minors. If Turner is eligible for arbitration in any of those years, he can use that to override the options. It's a similar deal to that of Porcello, though the contract won't match in total guaranteed money.
Oliver, also advised by Boras, will bypass his senior season at Oklahoma State, giving the Tigers a big, power left-hander in their system. His inconsistencies as a junior with the Sooners likely cost him a first-round spot, but the Tigers saw past some of the results to the talent, as they did with such pitchers as Cody Satterwhite, Robbie Weinhardt and Brett Jacobson last year.
Oliver will receive a $1,495,000 bonus.
Though Fields lasted four extra rounds, he was projected to have first- or second-round talent. He fell in large part due to expectations that he would follow through on his full scholarship to play at the University of Michigan. The Tigers convinced him to follow in his father's footsteps with a $1.6 million bonus.
Fields, the high school player of the year in the state of Michigan out of University of Detroit Jesuit, waited as long as he could to make the difficult choice. In the end, he chose the Tigers, the organization for which his dad, Bruce, played for several years in the 1980s before a long career as a manager at West Michigan and Toledo, and eventually a hitting coach in Detroit.
"It was a very tough decision," Fields told MLB.com on Monday night, "because I'd fallen in love with Michigan ever since I went on my visit. It was a very tough decision. It was actually pretty hard calling coach [Rich] Maloney and telling him I wasn't coming."
It has hit him, he said, that he's going to play where his father came through the system years ago.
"It's something I dreamed about doing, and [now it's] coming true," Fields said. "I just can't wait to get started."
All three players will report in the coming days to Lakeland, Fla., where they'll work out in preparation for the fall Instructional League. Though Chadd said there's an outside chance of some late-season action in the Gulf Coast League, he characterized it as unlikely.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.