The Athletics are expecting Kyler Murray, the No. 9 overall pick in last year’s MLB draft but also the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for Oklahoma, to declare for the NFL draft this Sunday, Susan Slusser and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle report.
Entering the draft doesn’t necessarily mean that Murray will forgo his commitment to the Athletics, but Slusser and Schulman report that one source indicated to them that Murray is indeed leaning toward selecting football as his profession rather than baseball. Should Murray go that route rather than pursuing his career as an outfielder in the Athletics organization, the A’s would get his $4.66M signing bonus back, but they wouldn’t receive a compensatory selection in the 2019 draft. That reality, as noted by Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill at the time, made the selection of Murray one of the riskier draft picks in recent memory.
While many onlookers note that Major League Baseball’s guaranteed salary structure should be more enticing to Murray (or any player), that’s somewhat of a presumptuous argument. At present, the only thing guaranteed to Murray in his baseball career is that $4.66M bonus. That’s obviously a life-changing sum of money, but Murray’s next notable payday in baseball would be nowhere in sight. He’d need to play for next to nothing for at least two seasons in the minors as he worked his way toward the majors, then spend at least his first three seasons making roughly the league minimum before even reaching arbitration — barring an early career extension (which the A’s haven’t handed out recently and which Murray’s agent, Scott Boras, typically avoids).
Even an optimistic and aggressive timeline for Murray reaching arbitration would put him at least a half-decade away from realizing his first significant post-draft payday in baseball, and it’s far from a guarantee that he’d ever be the type of player to command significant arbitration salaries or a significant multiyear contract in free agency.
Conversely, the No. 32 overall selection in last year’s NFL draft, Lamar Jackson, signed a four-year, $9,471,648 contract with the Ravens and quickly ascended to the starter’s role in Baltimore. Certainly, there are more than pure financial considerations at play, but assuming he’s a first-round selection in the NFL draft, Murray can look at Jackson’s near-$9.5M guarantee as a rough baseline for what he’d be promised. (In reality, it’d be slightly higher, as draft bonuses in the NFL increase incrementally each year just as they do in baseball.) As for fans hoping to see this generation’s version of Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders, the report from Slusser and Schulman flatly indicates that there’s “no possibility” of Murray playing both sports.
If Murray does ultimately choose the NFL over MLB, the Athletics would still retain his baseball rights in the event that he ever chose a change in career path (as was the case with the Rockies and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, though the Yankees now control Wilson’s rights following a 2017 trade). But, it’d be a discouraging blow for the A’s, who surely envisioned the sizable commitment they made to Murray as having a legitimate chance of persuading him to pursue a baseball career.