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Mailbag: Why is Fields holding out?

Mailbag: Why is Fields holding out?

The Mariners have entered the final two weeks of the regular season and the focus increases on 2009. Questions exist and we are here to answer as many of the ones you have. So send 'em in.

You mentioned that the reason Josh Fields has not been signed was because of Scott Boras. What would he hope to gain by not agreeing to a contract? Is there a time limit on how long discussions can continue and could Fields go against Boras and sign a contract?
-- Duane J., Cour d'Alene, Idaho.

In my opinion, Fields is being hurt the most by not signing a contract. He certainly could go against Boras, sign a contract and get on with what many believe would be a fine baseball career, but from what I have been hearing, Boras wants to use Fields -- who has no college eligibility remaining -- to establish a higher signing bonus foundation for future college seniors, who lack the bargaining power of college juniors or high school players. Boras apparently has "advised" Fields to reject any Mariners offer that is less than $2 million, play for an Independent League team next year, and re-enter the First-Year Player Draft in 2009. The Mariners have until the week before the '09 Draft to sign Fields. With the 2008 season near an end, it is unlikely Fields will be signing anytime soon, and that's a shame.

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There is a $500,000 difference between what Fields (or Boras) is asking for, and what the Mariners have offered -- $1.5 million, which is the "slotted" amount for a 20th overall Draft selection. According to scouts that watched Fields pitch for the University of Georgia, he had the potential of reaching the Major Leagues quickly, probably this September because the Mariners are not in a pennant race and are building for the future. Club officials have said that if Fields had signed early, there was a good chance of him spending the final month of the regular season with Seattle and possibly playing in the Arizona Fall League. With Brandon Morrow moving to the rotation, there would be an opening in the 'pen next season as a setup reliever for closer J.J. Putz.

One AL scout pointed out to me that Fields has now rejected offers from the Braves and Mariners the past two seasons and people in the industry are beginning to wonder if the right-hander really wants to pursue a baseball career. There are times when "opportunity" should outweigh money, and this seems to be one of those times. As the scout said, the game will continue to be played, "With or without Mr. Fields."

Has there ever been talk of reformulating how the top Draft pick is assigned? I'd like to see a system where the worst eight teams in the Major Leagues compete with each other, starting in September or so, for the No. 1 pick. Whoever has the best record by the end of the month gets it.
-- Paul B., Seattle.

That is an interesting concept, but as far as I know, not one that has been discussed. MLB would much rather have fans' attention focused on the playoff races in September. I think the only way a proposal such as yours would be considered is if one or more teams in the running for the No. 1 Draft choice purposely lost games in September to get the top Draft choice and that would not be acceptable.

When will the 2009 Spring Training schedule be announced?
-- Sue B., Bellingham, Wash.

Not a moment too soon, Sue, but according to Ron Spellecy, the Mariners director of travel, the exact release date of the 2009 Spring Training schedule has not been determined. The Cactus League games probably will begin the week of Feb. 23 in The Valley of the Sun, and continue through the first few days of April. There's a good chance that camps will open earlier this year because of the World Baseball Classic, which will be played in March. One issue holding up final approval is the status of the Spring Training facility in Glendale that will be shared by the Dodgers and White Sox. So stay tuned and we'll let you know as soon as we know.

There seem to be so many pitchers competing for starting positions. Who are the five starters going to be next year?
-- Rachel M., Seattle.

Have a question about the Mariners?
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A lot could happen between now and the start of Spring Training next season, but there could be some interesting competition in Peoria. The eventual rotation would most definitely include right-handers Felix Hernandez and Brandon Morrow. With so much invested in right-hander Carlos Silva (four years, $48 million), he figures to be in the rotation and if left-hander Erik Bedard returns with a strong left shoulder, and a desire to be the best he can be heading into his free agent season, then he, too, would be in the rotation. Left-hander Jarrod Washburn, who has pitched better than his three-year record with the Mariners would indicate, has one year remaining on his contract, but it might be best -- for him and the organization -- to be traded to another organization. Either Ryan Rowland-Smith or Ryan Feierabend could take Washburn's place, at a much lower salary.

With the Mariners' season coming to an end, do you think they should keep Jim Riggleman as manager for next year? If not, who would it be?
-- Carter P., Richmond, British Columbia.

That is something the next general manager will decide. Whenever a new GM takes over, he/she could have his/her own managerial candidate in mind, and there's nothing to prevent them from replacing Riggleman -- and the coaching staff -- with whomever he/she wants. The reason I include "she" in the GM possibilities is because Kim Ng, a highly-regarded assistant GM with the Dodgers, is believed to be one of the candidates for the Mariners job, which probably will be filled sometime in October. Lee Pelekoudas, who took over for the dismissed Bill Bavasi in June, also is a candidate.

What are the odds of the Mariners trying to sign CC Sabathia?
-- Christian H., Seattle.

Unless the GM can convince ownership to enter the free agent market, there will be no CC in Seattle. Club president Chuck Armstrong recently said the organization would not pursue the high-priced free agents. That includes Sabathia and first baseman Mark Teixeira, currently playing for the Angels.

Who do you think will be sharing first base with Bryan LaHair next year?
-- Derek L., Bellingham, Wash.

The Mariners are sending Mike Morse to the Arizona Instructional League, and then to Venezuela, to learn the position, so he would be the leading candidate to share playing time with LaHair next season. Morse, who earned a spot on the 25-man Opening Day roster with a tremendous Spring Training -- batting .429 -- suffered a severe (non-throwing) shoulder injury in April and missed virtually the entire season. Hopefully, the loss of a season won't set him back.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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