The Oakland Athletics messed up last June. They drafted Kyler Murray with their first round selection and told him that he could play one more year of college football. All that Kyler Murray did with that was go out and win the Heisman Trophy and lead Oklahoma into the college football “playoffs”. His draft stock in the NFL soared and now he’s thinking about entering the NFL draft.

The Oakland Athletics agreed to give him a signing bonus of $4,660,000 as their first round pick. If Kyler Murray decides to go to the NFL, he will have to pay back whatever amount of money he has received of that signing bonus – which probably isn’t much at this point. Oakland would not get a draft pick as a results of Murray choosing to play football.

Oakland officials, including VP of Baseball Operations Billy Beane and General Manager David Forst met with Kyler Murray earlier today to try and talk him into choosing to play baseball. Major League Baseball marketing officials also took part in the meeting, in what had to be the funniest marketing sales pitch of all time. They reportedly tried to sell him on the idea of what kind of money he could make “off-the-field”. Because yeah, the Heisman Trophy winner is going to do more marketing money playing minor league baseball for the next two years before ever reaching the Majors than he would before he even takes a snap in training camp this fall. To quote Cousin Eddie, “You serious, Clark?”

From Kyler Murray’s side of things, original rumors were that he wanted $15,000,000 to choose baseball. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle says she’s told that number is inaccurate, and that the number is lower than that.  It’s uncertain if that does or doesn’t include his signing bonus. But that doesn’t matter as much as it matters if Major League Baseball will allow this to happen. There are different opinions on whether it would be allowed by rule or not.

The rules, as written, say that a team can’t circumvent the draft rules and come to an agreement of any kind with a player about future pay or promotion to the Major Leagues by a certain date on top of their current Minor League contract. That, however, is a draft circumvention rule. And that’s where things get murky. The Athletics didn’t promise him anything about a future contract or promotion when they drafted him. Now that he’s got other options, he’s saying that he will take them unless they can make it worth his while. Oakland messed up by allowing him to play football. But this doesn’t sound like it’s circumventing the rules, either.

Some, however, believe that it is. The fact that Kyler Murray hasn’t played in a Minor League game yet makes handing him a Major League contract (which is how he’d get his $15M asking price), the sticking point of their argument. When Shohei Ohtani came to the Major Leagues, baseball officials were very adamant that any extension signed by him with the team he chose would be looked at very closely, as they believed it would likely be a way of circumventing the international slotting system that kept his signing bonus limited and him unable to sign a Major League contract. Some view they Kyler Murray situation the same way. I don’t. It’s not clear how Major League Baseball feels about it.

To enter the NFL Draft, Kyler Murray has to declare himself eligible by Monday. That leaves the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball next to no time to figure this out. Baseball America’s JJ Cooper spoke to several agents who don’t think there is any way that Major League Baseball would approve any new contract.

If baseball loses a two-sport player like this, it’s a bad look on Major League Baseball. Reds pitcher Amir Garrett told Kyler Murray if it were up to him, he would choose football. The Minor League life simply wasn’t worth it. Neither was the money because of what Murray could get in the NFL.

Under previous rules, teams could sign players out of the draft to Major League contracts. They would never go directly to the Major Leagues, but they would begin using options immediately. And they would get larger money, but it was spread out over multiple years, too. Those are no longer allowed. It would have likely kept all of this as a non-decision.


Immediately after posting this, Jeff Passan shared this:

With Major League Baseball saying that they would allow this to happen, it certainly does make you wonder if this is a 1-off situation, or if this is going to lead to changes to how they treat the draft, and Minor League players in general. Finding a way to improve the life of players in the minors could have made this a far less difficult situation. Of course, changing the rules to how the draft operates would have, too.

Second update:

Jeff Passan just clarified his tweet about the rule.

That is essentially what I was suggesting earlier in the article.

Third update: 3:45pm on January 14th

Kyler Murray has declared eligible for the NFL Draft. While it’s possible that baseball isn’t an afterthought at this point, it’s basically an afterthought at this point. You don’t declare for the NFL Draft as a quarterback and not convince teams that you aren’t done with baseball if you expect to be drafted. No team will draft a quarterback who wants to play another sport.

56 Responses

  1. Doc

    MLB will do just fine without this guy. Murray is not the first and won’t be the last.
    Maybe Oakland will be smarter next time.
    Maybe MLB will look more closely at the life of minor league players.
    Won’t be holding my breath either way on any of these points.

  2. $$$$$$

    Good for him. He should get what he deserves. He is guaranteed a big contract on the order of $12-15M for a middle first round pick where he is projected if he goes to the NFL. He is guaranteed nothing other than a signing bonus if he goes to the MLB.

  3. Stock

    Why not play both? Everyone talks of him choosing one or the other. Why not double dip.

      • $$$

        He doesn’t have to play QB…in fact he projects pretty well at WR. That type of athleticism translates well at several different positions.

    • Oldtimer

      Deion Sanders played both MLB and NFL successfully (although not MLB star like he was in NFL).

      It can be done but very rare.

      • Doug Gray

        Again, though: Quarterback is different than any other position. If he played cornerback or running back or linebacker, the time requirements could and would be different on the football side of things. But he’s a quarterback. It simply requires a different level of commitment and one that simply wouldn’t allow for him to do both like the Bo Jackson/Brian Jordan/Deion Sanders.

      • Oldtimer

        I agree. It is extremely difficult. If Terry Baker (Oregon State QB and Hesiman Trophy winner in 1962) couldn’t do it, I doubt many can. Baker was QB who played NFL and CFL in early 1960s. He played against UC in 1963 Final Four (basketball). Had the NFL and MLB option been available then, he might have been MLB pitcher, too. He was excellent LHP.

  4. Brad

    Kyler Murray has brought forth more issues in Collective Bargaining Agreements than anyone else. Impacting two leagues, both of which give away amateur rights for benefits of veterans who they then shortchange.

  5. Amarillo

    I couldn’t possibly understand the desire to play football over baseball. I mean the minor league life is awful, and the money is less for the first bunch of seasons…but I can’t imagine living out life with the amount of damage done to the brain from playing football.

  6. Simon Cowell

    This is on the A’s not MLB baseball. If he chooses the NFL then it is simple. The A’s lose out and get nothing in return. That is their fault for allowing Murray to have those options.

    • sixpack2

      yep! He is one player and the A’s get their money back and a pick this spring. A’s you created the problem live with it.

    • MK

      I am with you on this Simon. The A’s are like the Banks that made those bad mortgage loans then wanted to be bailed out for their own failed gamble. Let the A’s pay and send the message to others being irresponsible. Simon this is new ground so many people agreeing with you.

  7. Bill

    Seems to me to be more of a “one-off” situation. So what’s best for baseball … keeping Murray in the fold. The closest comparisons we have to Murray that were elite NFL and MLB prospects simultaneously were Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson–so it’s been a while. MLB should allow the A’s to sign Murray to a ML contract provided they are convinced there were no inklings of this discussed in his post-draft negotiations. Not really seeing how MLB comes out ahead watching Murray go to the NFL and burning the A’s.

    Also, maybe this will lead to better conditions in the minor for all players–this needs to happen soonest. Players and ownership need to come together and solve the problem.

    I don’t think this situation illuminates a flaw in the Rule 4 draft process. ML contracts for amateur players led to players being rushed through the minors in many cases making them bad for teams and players. Teams all spend their allotted draft pools and the best players get the biggest bonuses. That’s about as fair of a system as you can have for owners and players while keeping the playing field level among teams with so much variance in resources.

    • Doug Gray

      Drew Henson is the most recent one. He got $17M out of the draft. And that’s when baseball revenues were about 30% of what they are today.

      If baseball changed the rules to allow MLB contracts again out of the draft, and changed the rules on ONLY those contracts that say, high schoolers got 5 option years, with college players getting 4 option years – you’re talking about a high school guy not having to stick in the Majors until they are 24, or a college guy until they are 25 or 26. And only the elite players are going to get these deals, too. I think that would probably be really good for the sport.

      But I’ll argue with you all day long about how fair the draft system is for the players. Because it’s not. Their wages are artificially suppressed by billionaires simply because they have an anti-trust exemption.

      • Simon Cowell

        “Their wages are artificially suppressed by billionaires simply because they have an anti-trust exemption.” suppressed? You want revenue sharing and the owners to have a cap on their profits is what you are saying. The investors are buying sports franchises in order to make money. If you are going to limit their revenue by forcing them to share the money based on a % then you will no longer see investor groups such as what Derek Jeter used to purchase the Marlins. You may have a point with the minor leaguers being underpaid especially if they are making less than minimum wage. Owners take a risk too. A bigger risk than any single player. The owner has to ensure that marketing, budgeting, contracts, etc…. all of those things happen on time and within MLB regulations. There are 1000’s of liabilities and risks that they face every day simply because they own a franchise. Consider the human trafficking issues that the Los Angeles Dodgers are probably facing. You don’t think the owner is going to feel that? Clay Kershaw isn’t. Stomping your feet that owners are billionaires and players are only millionaires isn’t solving anything. Wealth redistribution may solve a few MLB problems but you aren’t even considering the big picture and the detriment that it would have to the sport as a whole. If you ask me there should be a minimum and a maximum salary per player and a minimum and a maximum total salary for every team. If they can’t meet the guidelines they lose the franchise.

      • Wes

        Please don’t use Jeter as an example. Allowing him to buy a franchise was the dumbest thing mlb has done in decades. They allowed a group to buy a baseball team who couldn’t make payroll. So they fire sold their whole team for pennies on the dollars in value. They should put a new rule in place to keep that from happening- it waters down the league and suppresses players. Has to be terrible to be in marlins organization right now

      • Bill

        Wes, MLB allowed the Jeter led group to buy the Marlins because it was the best offer on the table. Selling an MLB franchise is not the same as unloading a used Honda Accord, there are precious few potential buyers for anything that cost $1B+ and leverage (debt) is almost always used in transactions of this size.

      • Bill

        Henson was a sixth round pick in the NFL and a third round pick coming out of high school. He was not a first round talent in two sports. Even if he is considered, he launched his pro playing career 17 years ago. Point is, this is a “one off” situation. Hardly the type of event that “break the MLB draft”.

      • MK

        Doug, I believe your revised system would lead to more protracted signing hold outs and court battles on who is and is not an elite. Could really create a restraint of trade issue which I am sure many agents would be prepared to argue. I believe all draftees need to be treated the same to stay within the law. Bo Jackson’s injury history should be enough. Let Murray go and pay his money back.

      • Wes

        @bill- then u keep the team owned by MLB or allow the franchise to be moved. Montreal, Vegas, Portland, Mexico City…..they sold the franchise to a group who couldn’t make payroll. That’s inexcusable and it destroyed the trade market so badly the league still hasn’t recovered. Any small market team who didn’t land a marlin took a huge ripple effect blow from the terrible decision to let Jeter the broke joke buy a team. That includes reds who get stuck not moving their guys past 2 deadlines.

        Marlins traded away all 3 pieces of the best hitting outfield in a single season of all time. The best prospect they have from those trades now is a 23 year old outfielder who struck out over 200 times last year. SHAME on MLB !

      • Big Ed

        There is zero economic or legal reason why baseball should be exempt from antitrust laws, or wage and hour laws, of any other laws that apply to other businesses.

      • Bill

        Wes, to me the question is would the Marlins have gone down a similar path without the ownership change? Other MLB teams have certainly done similar when they reached a point that they believed their current talent wasn’t playoff competitive and they lacked the resources (prospects/payroll space) to elevate the roster.

      • Bill

        Adding options would only solve one aspect that providing ML contracts newly signed amateur players created. The other was 40-man roster space. To me, this idea has been tried, failed and replaced through collective bargaining. Just because we can find one instance over the last 17 years where this may have been a good solution, doesn’t make for a good overall policy.

      • Wes

        Bill, I’m all for a team selling off to rebuild. That wasn’t the case though. They sold off bc they couldn’t make payroll. So they traded an mvp, and 2 more all stars for nothing but to dump their salaries. They still don’t have a top 100 prospect in their whole organization. Then those trades saturate the trade market and reduce the value of every other player teams are trying to trade. So now u have to keep your guys or give them away too. two teams in central got huge upgrades and only took on salery vs loosing their best prospects and that’s not fair to reds or rest of league and if your goal is to put the highest quality and most competitive league on the fields than u failed drastically with Jeters group. Shame on mlb for letting Jeter the broke joke buy a team. It’s dumb moves like that that keep them leagues behind the NFL

  8. Michael Smith

    @Simon you are correct, the owners do take a risk and reap the benefit when they sell the team plus yearly profit. MLB needs to figure out how to balance profit and profit sharing with the players like the NBA and NFL or they are going to risk their entire investment.

    • Bill

      MLB has an established process to do exactly what you suggest, collective bargaining. It’s the exact same process as used in the NBA, NFL and NHL.

      • Michael Smith

        Difference is MLB does not have revenue sharing established like NFL and NBA. Players in those leagues pick up a guaranteed % of the leagues revenues as collectively bargained. The fact that the union has not fought hard enough for this is on them and I think you will have labor issues until it is corrected.

  9. Wes

    If any team is cool w just getting their 4 mil back it’s Oakland.

    I’m torn between baseball and football for him. If guarenteed money is the same I guess you have to play baseball and it’s not even close. But if you get 15 mil plus in nfl vs 4 in baseball I might play football due to how difficult it is to actually make it in the show.

    Garrett Complaining about miners is petty. If you are any good then you don’t have to work your way through the miners like acuna/Soto/leake. Brenden McKay will be ready for show in less than 2 seasons and senzel would have done that if he didn’t get hurt. Hear any of them complaining?

    • Nep O'Tism

      They lose their 1st round pick, though. You only get it back if you fail to sign the player. They signed him, he just would retire in this scenario.

      9th overall pick has probably more value to a team than $4m.

    • Doug Gray

      Complaining about the minors isn’t petty. You stay in some motels on the road that I bet half of the posters here wouldn’t even think about stopping at (they aren’t all like this, but there are some). You have to travel long hours by bus. At times you play in small, crappy towns. You don’t get to really choose where you live (this can be said about football, too – but it’s not like the minors where you go live in Arizona for two months, then you go to Dayton, then Daytona all within a 7 month span, then you go back to wherever you actually live at for 4-5 months). Then there are the other perks of being in the NFL versus playing in Mobile, Alabama.

      The two things aren’t remotely the same, even if we don’t bring up the money issue. One situation is insanely better than the other. To suggest complaining about it being petty is a crazy thought.

      • wes

        In Garrett’s case, and I like Amir Garrett, then go play ball overseas. Or go get your welders cert and find a job making 50K a year or use your college degree to get a better job than being a minor league player. He chose his path just like every other minor league ball player does. It’s an option and a choice to play ball. We live the in the greatest earning society in the history of the human experience and we are in a time when anyone wants a job- can work. So if you don’t like what you do- find a new path.

        I stay in crappy motels and I miss my kids events sometimes bc I work evenings. I am not complaining about any of it bc I can pick a new path at any moment and walk away from my current work.

        Amir Garrett is a millionaire complaining about playing baseball for a living. No sympathy from me. Not siding with owners or MLB by any means, but if you are going to complain- you are going to be rightfully criticized for it

      • Oldtimer

        Mobile AL is a very nice city. Sort of New Orleans lite. There may be some crummy MiLB cities but Mobile ain’t one of them.

    • Red4ever

      It just shows that he’s a first class guy and cares about minor league players and he’s in the big leagues. Baseball needs more of those guys. So minor leaguers could get paid more. Those guys do probaly complain but we don’t see it, or aren’t around them to see it.

  10. The Duke

    I’d have a lot more sympathy for the players if they argued for a $50,000 milb minimum salary than complaining about Machado and Harper’s deals not being 10 years and not being more than $30 million a year.

    • Steven Duncan

      I totally agree with you. In the new collective bargain deal if there are changes made I would love for them to negotiate for the little guys. (Minor leaguers and even players in there first three years). What I would like to see is minimum wage of 50k a year for minor leaguers and first year players are arbitration eligible. Maybe by doing this the owners can get an extra year of team contol. Say ok we’ll allow first time players to go to arbitration but we get 7 years of team control. I think that is a good compromise and makes sure 2&3 year players that are All stars are getting compensated accordingly. Instead of the 500k a year they make on their first three years. I’m less interested in making sure the Machado’s and Harpers of the world get their $400 million instead of $300 million.
      Doug, do you think there is any chance that the MLBPA will truly try help out the minor leaguer players and players playing in there first three years at the next collective bargaining agreement? Or will they only be trying to make the top 5% in baseball richer?

      • The Duke

        I’ll virtually guarantee that the minor leaguers get screwed over yet again in the next CBA negotiations because the big leaguers don’t care, and don’t see the hypocrisy in them doing precisely what the owners are doing.

  11. Nep O'Tism

    Murray is going to weigh in the 190s at the combine if he goes, and that means there’s a very good chance he will be competing for the lightest person on an NFL field at times.

    It’s one thing if you want to talk about his height. (Listed at 5’10, seen pictures of him near other 5’10 people, he’s not 5’10.) Personally, I just can’t even imagine him trying to scramble out of the pocket at 190-195 and getting hit by 240lb Luke Kuechly or 250lb Khalil Mack with a full head of steam.

    He ran 140 times in 14 games for Oklahoma in 2018. The guy will break.

    – – – – –
    The immediate money and gratification is in the NFL, but if you’re confident in your baseball skills, the long-term health (and also a lot of money if you’re good) is in baseball.

    • Doug Gray

      But the odds say to play football if you want the money because you’re likely to get a whole lot more guaranteed in that game than in baseball.

      • Nep O'Tism

        Oh yeah, I am not arguing that the money isn’t in football.

        I was more arguing that later in life once your opportunity with both sports ends, you’ll be able to enjoy the $5m guaranteed you got from playing baseball more than the $10-15m guaranteed you got from playing football.

        Either way you’re going to be a millionaire (just a matter of how many millions), but at least the baseball way you won’t be in a wheelchair, forgetting your own name. and unable to tie your own shoes. Gotta ask yourself how much that’s worth.

      • IMHO

        Whatever happened to playing the game because you love it. Not that it’s a great comparison, but it’s like kids these days that go from job to job – no loyalty – just greed.

      • Alex

        Replying to IMHO

        I think loyalty to your family is a lot more important than loyalty to an employer, especially when in this instance the employer does everything it can to reduce what it has to pay to its employees.

  12. Steve D

    If Murray wants to bet on himself that he will be the next Bryce Harper or Manny Machado then baseball is the sport for him. As he’ll revive over $400 million playing baseball. However, the chances that happen are slim. Don’t get me wrong I think Murray could be a solid major leaguer if he decides on baseball. The thing is he is going to make more money up front playing football. Assume the Bengals pick him at 11. He’ll get a 4 year 17 million contract and a 5th year team option where he would make close to $20 million for that 5th year. If he does well those first five years he’s gonna be making well over 25 million a year. In order to make that kind of $ he’ll have to get through the minors and the. play 6 years of MLB baseball before he’s eligible for a contract this size. Playing football Murray will be eligible to start making serious $ on his 5th year team option. If I’m Murray I’m picking football. As a Bengals fan I would love to see the draft Murray at 11 as I don’t think Dwayne Haskins will be there then. Anyways good luck to the kid.

    • Big Ed

      If he gets drafted by the Bengals, Murray may pay the A’s back some of his bonus, simply as thanks for keeping him from working for Mike Brown.

  13. AirborneJayJay

    Kyler Murray is not an NFL quarterback at his size. Let him go to the NFL. He will be back in 2 or 3 years knocking on the MLB door wanting back in.
    Make no special exemptions or rules for players. The SS’s will miss that draft pick, but they won’t miss Kyler Murray. Murray already sounds like a prima dona so let him go to the prima dona league, the NFL. Why feet over one player?
    Who cares about what Kyler Murray does? Who cares if Kyler Murray makes a bad decision? If he picks the NFL, who really cares? Move on. The A’s just learned a hard lesson for all MLB teams should take notice, don’t waste a 1st round top 10 pick on undecided 2 sport players.
    Lesson learned.

    • Alex

      I think you are missing some of what makes this a big deal. It isn’t solely about Murray, he just happened to wait this long until he had to make a decision about picking one sport over the other. This is also about baseball losing premier athletes to other sports because of their draft rules and minor league system.

      You probably won’t hear about an elite high school athlete choosing one sport over another, but it makes a difference to the game when the best athletes aren’t picking baseball.

  14. Doc

    I would like to see minor league salaries more livable, and I would like to see the salary scale based on level. I don’t believe an instructional league player should make the same as a AAA player, but the floor for the instructional league player should be the reasonable starting point. As one advances up the ladder, he should make more. I would also have an incremental bump for being on the 40 man roster, no matter what level the player is assigned.

    I hadn’t realized that many minor leaguers stay with host families until reading this site. I hosted PGA Tour players for years during the Houston Open and would happily host minor leaguers, except there are no minor league teams anywhere near me, making for a very long commute to work.

    As far as arbitration goes, I never have liked the ‘choose one salary or the other’ approach. It essentially guarantees huge raises for players with marginal performance, or players who spent much of the year not playing while collecting a salary (Disco would be exhibit A the past two years), and nobody can go backwards. Owners got snookered on that CBA deal. I think that either a major league minimum pay scale that slides upward based on a player’s MLB service time until arbitration eligible, or first year arbitration but allowing an arbitrator to choose any number between the submitted salaries, including a number less than the previous year’s pay as long as that is between the submitted amounts and above the minimum, would improve both sides. On the minimum sliding scale, I would have incremental increases with each one to three months of accumulated service time, not only at one year of service time. They don’t have to be big increases, but they should be there. Anything that reduces management’s ability to manipulate the fairness of the system.

    Murray would be the kind of person the Bengals would draft. Short guy who can’t see over the line, and too lightweight to stand much punishment. He would be another coming of Gary Beban, whose game fit the college ranks, but not the NFL. Of course, that comes from a ‘71 Purdue graduate who thought Mike Phipps got screwed in the Heisman voting the year Beban won!

    • Doug Gray

      Rookie ball guys get paid less than Low-A guys who get paid less than Advanced-A guys who get paid less than Double-A guys who get paid less than Triple-A guy. 40-man roster guys, no matter the level they are assigned to, make real, actual money.

      As for the host families…. that’s very hit-and-miss. Doesn’t exist in Goodyear for the AZL guys. Doesn’t exist in Greeneville. Doesn’t exist in Daytona. Not sure if Chattanooga has it or not (Pensacola did). Some organizations, like the St. Louis Cardinals, they don’t allow their players to have host families.

      • IMHO

        Doug, you are right…I really don’t think many understand that a majority of MiLB players who do not have large signing bonuses, therefore, they exist on the MiLB salary ONLY WHEN IN SEASON…so if they are not playing, they do not get $. There is so much focus on those that get the BIG BUCKS, they people assume every player does as well. Well, YOU ARE WONG.

        There are a lot of things these MiLB players have to pay for that the organization REQUIRES them to. So,if you want to break it down, they probably get paid $5 an hour. Sure, some of you might say – hey they are playing baseball…but baseball is their job. IT IS THEIR ONLY bread and butter at this point and for guys that are 22 and older, if they end up not playing baseball anymore due to injury, they are out of the Employment Game. They have to reinvent themselves – go back to school – figure out what they can do with their lives. $50,000 a year would be great for these guys. At least they have a fighting chance to save money and use it for college, grad school or even rent.

        It’s really important to understand that not every MiLB player gets a signing bonus. If they make $150 a week that’s a lot- AFTER you remove money for the stadium guy, remove money for their hotel room – remove money for food – remove money for uber rides since most don’t have cars (some are even too YOUNG to have a license)

        Murray’s choice is smart – and if it doesn’t pan out, he can go back to baseball. It’s a win-win for him. But I don’t think he is the one that will change the way organizations pay their MiLB players.

    • Oldtimer

      Gary Beban won Heisman in 1967. Phipps graduated in 1970. Jim Plunkett won in 1970.

      Purdue ’74 graduate. Like you, I saw Phipps beat Plunkett 36-35 in 1969.

  15. Jack

    No doubt they could do a much better job of treating minor league players right but it doesn’t matter how well they treat them it will never compare to life in the NFL so there’s not much to be done about it if that is his reasoning.