Had things gone the way many thought, Fields might have been one of the biggest names on the free agent market this winter. The Phillies and other teams looking for a big bat at third base would have been fighting it out to gain his services for 2013 and well beyond. Instead, Fields was a free agent, but was just a minor league free agent looking for somewhere to latch onto.
In 2007, Fields put up the type of numbers that everybody thought would become routine for the young third baseman. Fields launched 23 home runs in 373 at-bats with the White Sox and seemed poised to become a perennial all-star. Since that time, Fields hasn't even been able to match the 373 major league at-bats, let alone the home run totals.
Fields last played in the majors in 2010, playing in 13 games with the Royals. Ironically, he was swinging the bat well, hitting .306 with three home runs in 49 at-bats with Kansas City. The next spring, Fields was in camp with the Rockies, but failed to win a spot on the opening day roster. By mid-June, he was hitting .365 and had 11 home runs at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but it still wasn't good enough to get him back to the majors. That realization led him to take his bat and head for the orient. After being given his release by the Rockies, Fields signed with the Yomiuri Giants and spent the rest of the season overseas.
Last spring, Fields had a string of good minor league seasons behind him to go with the solid September numbers that he put up with the Royals at the end of 2012. The Dodgers gave him an invite to spring training, but again, he didn't make the opening day roster, but went on to add 13 more home runs to his minor league total and hit .302 at Albuquerque.
The truth is that Fields and the Phillies are a good fit for each other. The Phillies have a need at third base and if they don't sign or trade for someone to fill that spot, Fields will have a shot at battling for the position this spring. If the Phillies do fill their need at third base, Fields will give them nothing less than a veteran player who can come up later in the season if the need arises.
Fields, who was the 18th overall pick in the 2004 Draft, will turn 30 in a couple of weeks. He's likely spent his prime in the minors, but has a shot at busting onto a major league roster next spring. The fact that he can really only play third base is a negative, so making the Phillies out of camp may come down to an all-or-nothing decision, meaning that if he's not going to be at least getting a chunk of playing time at third base, then he likely doesn't make the club.
It's not the first time that Fields has been in this position, which nobody saw coming back in 2007 when he was seventh in Rookie of the Year balloting. This time though, there aren't any huge obstacles standing in front of him, so a good spring could put Fields back on major league fields for the first time in what will be two-and-a-half years.
|2006||Chicago White Sox||11||20||4||3||2||0||1||2||5||8||.150||.320||.400|
|2007||Chicago White Sox||100||373||54||91||17||1||23||67||35||125||.244||.308||.480|
|2008||Chicago White Sox||14||32||3||5||1||0||0||2||3||17||.156||.229||.188|
|2009||Chicago White Sox||79||239||29||53||5||2||7||30||25||76||.222||.301||.347|