Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, the ninth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, is giving up baseball to commit to football full-time. Murray made the announcement on Twitter earlier Monday.
On Sunday it was reported the Oakland Athletics, the team that selected Murray ninth overall last year, were cautiously optimistic Murray would choose baseball. . Instead, Murray is passing on baseball all together to pursue a football career.
The Athletics and Murray agreed to a $4.66 million signing bonus following last June's draft and the club was willing to let him play football in the fall. Murray then went out and had a monster season for the Sooners, one that earned him the Heisman Trophy and increased his NFL draft stock considerably. He's now a consensus first round pick.
. MLB even gave the A's the green light to offer him a major league contract, which would've put more money in his pocket and put him on the 40-man roster. Agreements like that are forbidden, but MLB was willing to make an exception given Murray's rising NFL stock.
Murray, 21, hit .296/.398/.556 with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 51 games for Oklahoma last spring. MLB.com ranked him as the 36th best prospect in the 2018 draft and noted his high-end athleticism and tools, but cautioned he'd lost out on development time while playing football, making him a risky pick even before considering his NFL aspirations.
Now that the Murray saga is over and he's elected to pursue an NFL career, here's what it means for the Athletics.
The A's retain Murray's baseball rights
Murray doesn't get to become a baseball free agent simply because he's chosen to pursue football. The A's will retain his baseball rights going forward and he will be placed on the minor-league restricted list indefinitely. Should Murray ever decide to return to baseball, he would have to return to the Athletics. He wouldn't get to pick his team.
Current Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made a similar decision years ago. The Rockies selected Wilson in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and he played two years in their farm system while also playing football in college. Once he decided to pursue an NFL career, Colorado placed Wilson on the restricted list and retained his rights.
The Rangers selected Wilson from the Rockies in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft and took control of his baseball rights. They then traded him to the Yankees for future considerations last spring. In the extremely unlikely event Wilson decides to give baseball another try, the Yankees hold his rights the same way the A's hold Murray's rights.
The A's will not receive a compensation draft pick
If a team fails to sign a high draft pick, they receive a compensation pick one selection later the next year. The Astros failed to sign Brady Aiken as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft and received the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft as compensation. They used that pick on Alex Bregman, which worked out pretty darn well.
In this case, however, the Athletics will not receive a compensation pick in 2019 as a result of Murray leaving for the NFL. That's because they did enter into a baseball contract with him last year and still hold his baseball rights going forward. This was not a surprise to the A's. They knew they'd be ineligible to receive a compensation draft pick if Murray chose football at the time of the draft last year, and they rolled the dice anyway.
Given the way things played out, the A's completely blew a top 10 pick last year, for all intents and purposes. The real world value of retaining Murray's baseball rights is incredibly small. Oakland had the ninth overall pick last year and they'll end up with no player and no compensation pick. Ouch.
Murray has to repay part of his bonus
Murray does not get to keep his entire $4.66 million signing bonus. The standard player contract stipulates signing bonuses must be repaid should the player leave baseball within a certain period of time. In Murray's case, he's playing football. In other cases, a player could retire from baseball to return to school. Point is, you can't just sign a baseball contract, get a huge bonus, and then go do something else. It doesn't work like that.
Large draft bonuses are typically paid out over time and, to date, the A's have paid Murray $1.5 million of his $4.66 million signing bonus. ESPN's Jeff Passan reports Murray will repay $1.29 million of that $1.5 million, and forfeit the remaining $3.15 million. Murray gets to keep $210,000 even though he never officially suited up for the Athletics. That's a drop in the bucket to an MLB franchise, even a small-market team like the A's, but it is $210,000 in real money.
It should be noted that, as long as Murray is selected no later than the middle of the second round in the 2019 NFL draft, he will come out ahead financially. The 58th overall pick in last year's NFL draft walked away with a contract worth $4.86 million. Murray projects to be a first round selection, putting him in line for at least a $5 million bonus and a $10 million contract. Playing in the NFL is far more lucrative in the short-term than playing baseball and riding buses in the minors.