Kyler Murray chose football. He chose to be a quarterback and chase the type of fame and success that can only come from being one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. When you look at it that way, Murray’s decision makes a lot of sense.
He’s a 21-year-old young man who just won college football’s biggest award, who got a taste of the spotlight that comes with being a star quarterback and who, if he chose baseball, would have been immediately humbled by riding a bus in the minor leagues and waiting two, three or maybe four years until he’s playing his sport at the highest level again.
Baseball misses out. So do the Oakland Athletics – who drafted Murray No. 9 overall last summer and granted him one more year to play college football. On the football end of things, there will be many more questions in the coming months about what Murray can do in the NFL and where he’ll go in April’s NFL draft, but on the baseball side of things, there are different types of questions.
What happens to Murray’s money? What do the A’s do now? Did they know about his choice beforehand? What if he decides to play baseball again? Did baseball’s economic system affect Murray’s decision? Let’s examine each in detail.
What happens to Kyler Murray’s signing bonus?
When the A’s signed Murray, they give him a signing bonus worth $4.66 million. Now that he’s choosing to focus on football, he’ll be forced to give back all but about $210,000 of it.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Murray has to repay $1.29 million of the $1.5 million the A’s had already given him. He would have received $3.1 million more on March 1, but that won’t be happening now.
This isn’t a surprise. Having to repay the bonus is something that had been talked about since Murray signed with Oakland.
Did the A’s know Murray’s choice before he announced it?
Murray’s decision came on the first day of workouts for A’s pitchers and catchers. Had he opted to report to spring training, he’d have arrived Friday with other A’s position players. But Murray announced his decision on Twitter literally five minutes after A’s manager Bob Melvin told the media the team was cautiously optimistic Murray would pick baseball. Murray’s statement also had no reference of the A’s, so the whole thing just looked odd.
Note the timestamps:
Bob Melvin says the A’s remain cautiously optimistic that Kyler Murray will choose baseball but he expects Murray to follow his passion.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 11, 2019
Melvin then told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he heard about Murray’s decision about 10 minutes after his morning briefing with reporters. It’s not definitive, but Slusser says no one she talked to in the A’s organization said they heard about Murray’s decision before his tweet.
What do the A’s do now?
The good part about baseball, in this case, is that Murray was just going to get sent off to rookie ball somewhere, which means the immediate impact for the A’s in a big-league baseball sense is nothing. This isn’t the NFL or the NBA, where a first-round draft pick is expected to immediately contribute on the highest level.
The A’s did gamble by picking Murray No. 9 overall and won’t recoup everything. There’s no comp draft pick coming back to the A’s to make up for losing Murray, like if he were a first-rounder who didn’t sign. The A’s will, however, retain the rights to Murray should he want to return to baseball one day.
How much did baseball’s economic system play into Murray’s decision?
Before venturing down this path, let’s be honest. We don’t know the answer. Murray’s announcement focused solely on the fact that he wants to be an NFL quarterback and didn’t even mention baseball once. In that respect, it’s safe to consider this decision is more about Murray’s love for football than any problem he has with baseball.
Still, given the contentious state of baseball’s free-agent market, it’s safe to wonder how much any of that played into Murray’s decision. The huge caveat is that Murray wouldn’t be venturing into baseball’s open market until 2027 at least, but the current economic climate has hurt the knee-jerk notion that baseball is the more prosperous option.
In the long term, yes, baseball’s guaranteed contracts are more lucrative, but in the short term, the difference between baseball money and football money for Murray isn’t incredibly different. If he’s a mid-to-late first-round pick in the NFL, which is what’s expected, he could make roughly the same amount of money immediately.
What might make more of a difference: The way MLB treats its minor leaguers. Most minor leaguers make less than $10,000 per year. If you have a $4.66 million signing bonus (like Murray) that can help offset things, but the road to the big leagues is not at all glamorous. Certainly not like being an NFL quarterback.
There was some talk recently that the A’s could give Murray a major-league contract instead of a minor-league deal, which would pay him more money while he’s in the minors. Last week, it was reported that the players union was pushing to bring back major-league contracts as a way of instituting a “Kyler Murray Rule,” which would make baseball more appealing to two-sport talents.
Perhaps that could be the league-wide fallout from Murray’s decision — it could give baseball a reason to re-examine how young players are compensated on their road to the big leagues.
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