After a month of speculation and reports, Kyler Murray has decided to fully commit to playing in the NFL. Picked 9th overall by the Athletics eight months ago, Murray will return $1.29 million of the signing bonus he already earned and forfeit the remaining $3.16 million.
While this is disappointing news for the Athletics, this should not come as a surprise. Weeks after winning the Heisman Trophy, Murray tweeted that he had declared for the NFL draft and that he wanted “big time money” to stick with baseball. When asked by Dan Patrick (among other interviewers during Super Bowl week) on which sport he was leaning towards, things got a bit awkward:
Patrick: “When do you report for the Oakland A’s?”
Murray: “February 15th.”
Patrick: “Oh, you knew that, okay, so you’re ready to go to do that?”
Patrick: “Wait are you going to Spring Training?!”
Murray: “I don’t know.”Kyler Murray, on The Dan Patrick Show during Super Bowl Week
The narrative around the media was that Murray would avoid any life-altering injuries and potentially earn more playing baseball. However, Major League Baseball has refused to pay their minor leaguers—they are big proponents of the “Save America’s Pastime Act”—and has seen two straight offseasons where marquee players have signed later than usual because teams refuse to spend big money on free agents. Moreover, Murray was clearly leaning towards playing football for the past month.
Whatever the case may be, this is a big loss for baseball. Murray would have been a marketed player in baseball, something that baseball desperately needs as the sport’s popularity continues to dwindle. Both the A’s and MLB were willing to go above and beyond to keep Murray in baseball—the latter negotiating with the MLBPA on a rule that would allow two-sport players to negotiate MLB contracts. But none of their efforts were enough to keep Murray from following his dream.
The A’s will continue to hold the rights to Murray’s baseball contract, much like the Yankees with Russell Wilson’s rights. However, with Murray devoting “his life” to football, any hope of Murray playing baseball are all but crushed.
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Follow Payton Ellison on Twitter (@realpmelli14) and check out his podcast.