Kyler Murray has until tomorrow to declare his eligibility for the NFL Draft, and a contingent from the A’s front office (including Billy Beane and David Forst) is meeting with the two-sport star and his camp today to try and convince him to remain in the Athletics’ farm system rather than pursue a pro football career. The situation could result in a decision with league-wide ramifications, as ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan is reporting (Twitter links) that if the A’s and Murray can agree to a Major League contract that would guarantee Murray more money for sticking with baseball, Major League Baseball wouldn’t object.
As Passan explains in follow-up tweets, league rules prevent a team from signing a drafted player to an MLB contract straight out of the draft. In Murray’s case, he has already signed a minor league deal last summer, which included a $4.6MM bonus as the ninth overall selection in the 2018 draft. Since Murray is already technically under contract, no league rules would be broken if Oakland was to sign him to a Major League contract now and add him to its 40-man roster. As Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times notes (Twitter link), Major League Baseball wouldn’t believe that Murray and the A’s were in violation of the draft pool system with this new contract unless the league felt such a handshake agreement for more money was made last summer, before Murray was originally signed.
The eye-popping news comes in the wake of reports from earlier today from WFAA’s Mike Leslie, who heard from a source that Murray wanted $15MM in new money to forego the NFL for the Athletics. While Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the $15MM figure is “too high,” she notes that the A’s and Murray’s representatives from the Boras Corporation “are working on trying something creative to accommodate” a new agreement.
Since being drafted by the A’s last summer, Murray’s star has risen following a season that saw the quarterback win the Heisman Trophy and lead Oklahoma to a slot in the College Football Playoff. Slusser and Henry Schulman of the Chronicle reported earlier this week that Murray was now leaning towards declaring for the NFL Draft, as he’d gain more money beyond $4.66MM (which would be given back to the A’s) as a potential first-round pick, and Murray could potentially be on an NFL field as soon as September, rather than facing at least a few seasons in the minors before cracking the Athletics’ Major League roster.
Perhaps with a nod to Murray’s higher profile, Major League Baseball sent some marketing executives to today’s meeting between Murray and the A’s front office, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports. As Passan put it, the league’s willingness to permit a Major League contract this early in Murray’s pro baseball career is indicative of how “special a situation” MLB considers Murray’s case to be, as “Murray in MLB would be a coup.”
It stands to reason that other teams could raise objections to a new Murray contract, though the circumstances are unique enough that it isn’t likely to lead to a future flurry of teams trying to find loopholes around the draft pool system. One rival general manager tells The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that “Everyone knows this isn’t circumvention….I actually hope the A’s can get it done. It would be good for the game for Murray to play baseball.”
The other interesting wrinkle about a new contract is that it would tweak Murray’s timeline to the majors. If Murray is placed on the 40-man roster, 2019 would become his first option year, so he’d be out of options following the 2022 season. That leaves the A’s with less time to access Murray’s prospect potential, though the club clearly sees that as a preferred scenario to losing Murray (and wasting a first-round pick) entirely should he opt for the NFL.