Six Months Later, Mariners 2008 Draft Pick Josh Fields Remains Unsigned

Ryan FayContributor IDecember 15, 2008

The Seattle Mariners drafted Josh Fields with the 20th pick in the 2008 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

That was back on June 5th. Over six months later, Fields remains unsigned and is one of just three first rounders who have not signed.

The Washington Nationals didn't sign Aaron Crow, the ninth pick in the draft; the two sides couldn't agree on the financial terms of a contract. Crow will likely end up playing in the Independent Leagues before re-entering the draft next year. The Nationals will receive the 10th pick as compensation.

The Yankees took Gerrit Cole with the 28th pick but Cole opted to attend UCLA. Cole won't be draft eligible again until after his junior season at UCLA. As compensation, the Yankees will be awarded the 29th pick in the draft.

Crow and Cole had to sign by August 15th. Fields, as a college senior, wasn't subjected to that deadline and can sign right up until the 2009 draft.

Fields was originally drafted 69th overall by the Atlanta Braves in 2007. But he struggled in his junior season at Georgia, especially with his control and his velocity, and opted against signing with the Braves. He returned to school and hoped to improve his draft stock.

And he did.

He was selected 49 spots higher in 2008, thanks to a big senior season at Georgia, where he allowed just 12 hits in 32.2 innings while walking 18 and striking out 56.

Fields can enter a game and dominate. He has a mid-to-high 90's fastball and a wicked low 80's curve. But his control can elude him, and at 6'0"/183 lbs, isn't a physically imposing presence.

Fields is viewed as a guy who is close to the majors as well as someone who could eventually be a closer. Some analysts said if any of the '08 draftees could make it to the big leagues before the year was out, it would have been Fields.

Obviously, that didn't happen. So why is Fields still unsigned?

He's a Scott Boras client and there's reportedly a $500,000 difference between Fields and his representation and the Mariners.

While Fields was a consensus first round talent, very few thought the Mariners would have taken him.

Why would a team going nowhere spend a first round pick on a quick-moving relief pitcher? It didn't make much sense.

Detroit and Milwaukee were more popular landing spots for Fields, largely because both did (and still do) need relief help. Detroit picked Ryan Perry, another college reliever who could move fast, one pick after Seattle nabbed Fields. Milwaukee selected catcher Brett Lawrie with the 16th pick.

More importantly, much of the regime in charge for Seattle at the time, including general manager Bill Bavasi, have been canned.

Back in June, Rotoworld speculated that "the staff in Seattle knows it's running out of time and Fields will be ready to help earlier than practically anyone else left on the board."

It's possible that the new members of the front office realized that Fields wasn't the right pick for the organization, given its bleak short term outlook.

If they don't sign Fields, the Mariners would receive the 21st pick in the 2009 draft as compensation.