Outfielder/quarterback Kyler Murray, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner but also the No. 9 overall pick by the Athletics in the 2018 MLB draft, announced today that he will pursue a career in football rather than baseball (Twitter link). Murray’s statement reads as follows:
“Moving forward, I am firmly and fully committing my life to becoming an NFL quarterback. Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100% of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships. I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”
The decision is a tough but not exactly unexpected one for the A’s. While the team had maintained some optimism that Murray might choose baseball, it was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter at the time Murray declared for the NFL draft that his mind was largely made up.
Oakland paid Murray a $4.66MM signing bonus in last summer’s draft, and while they’ll reportedly recoup the vast majority of that sum, they won’t be given a compensatory pick in the 2019 draft to make up for Murray’s decision to choose an NFL career over MLB. More specifically, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets that Murray will return $1.29MM of the $1.5MM of his signing bonus that has been paid out to him so far. He’ll also forfeit the remaining $3.16MM that would have been paid to him on March 1.
Although baseball’s guaranteed contract structure is alluring for the select few players who reach arbitration and free agency, choosing the NFL offers Murray a more certain financial future. If he’s selected anywhere in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, he can expect to earn more than twice what he’d have earned with the Athletics’ signing bonus; last year’s No. 32 overall pick, Lamar Jackson, signed for nearly $9.5MM and will earn the entirety of that sum. Beyond that, Murray won’t have to spend the next few years playing in largely empty minor league parks, nor will he spend the first two to three seasons of his career earning roughly the league minimum, as he’d have done as a pre-arbitration MLB player.
In exchange for a more immediate payday and a quicker path to competing at his sport’s highest level, of course, Murray will play a much more physically demanding game that comes with a heightened risk of both short- and long-term injury. One can imagine that all of those factors were weighed heavily by Murray when making the decision to ultimately spurn the A’s in pursuit of football.
Technically, the Athletics will be able to retain the rights to Murray, in the event that he ever has a change of heart or is forced to alter his career path. Oakland will put him on the restricted list for the time being, though that move is purely a formality for now, given the emphatic nature of Murray’s announcement.