The Mariners landed promising prep right-hander Sam Carlson in Monday's second round, but knew they'll need to spend more than his $1.2 million slot, because the youngster was a projected first-round pick who has the option of a scholarship at the University of Florida.
"We were in a situation after picking Carlson where we had to look to opportunities to balance our bonus pool and get the most out of it," Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter said. "Mills is a kid we talked about in our top five rounds. He's a sidearmer that throws 91-95 [mph].
"He reminds me of Joe Smith and Steve Cishek. A guy with a unique arm slot, and the ability to throw as many strikes as he does. He had 58 strikeouts and four walks, and two of those were intentional. From the angle he's doing it from, he could be a quick mover, if he keeps doing the same things."
After the Mariners stocked up on pitchers on Tuesday, the Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 9 a.m. PT.
Mills hasn't signed a contract yet, but he's headed to Seattle's Spring Training facilities in Peoria, Ariz., on Friday for a physical exam, and figures to get a $100,000 bonus, which is $479,000 under the slot for the 93rd overall pick.
"The Draft works in weird ways," said Mills, who was selected in the 17th round by the Rays in 2016, but stayed at Gonzaga.
Mills is grateful for his decision, as it not only allowed him to improve his Draft stock, but end up with the team he grew up watching every day on TV.
"Oh man," Mills said of his reaction when the Mariners called. "I'm a pretty calm guy, so I just kind of let it all sink in, and didn't say much. I was with my dad. Mom teaches, so we went to her school, and that was more of the celebration and party and hugs and all that. It's just surreal, being a Spokane guy, a Mariners fan my whole life. This is the opportunity of a lifetime."
Mills went 2-2 with 12 saves and a 1.79 ERA this past year, with 58 strikeouts in just 40 1/3 innings in 22 outings. But MLB.com analysts had to scramble to find out information on him when his name was called on the live broadcast.
"That's OK," Mills said. "We're a small school in the Northwest and don't get a lot of exposure, but I hope we're putting our name on the map. I love being the underdog. It just fits my life story. I've been the underdog and late bloomer for so long, it makes me happy to shock the world."
Mills said he's made big strides since becoming a sidearmer his sophomore year. He's studied Seattle's Cishek, and said he'd love to spend time with him at Spring Training, if the chance arises.
For now, Mills figures he'll likely begin his career at short-season Class A Everett. And while he turned down a shot at professional ball last year because he wanted to stay with the Bulldogs after they offered him a full-ride scholarship for his final year after initially being a college walk-on, he's more than ready to put aside the books and play ball.
"That sounds amazing," Mills said with a laugh. "Much better than sitting at a finance desk."