- If the A’s had their way, they’d probably already have made at least one additional long-term investment. The club has tried to lock down third baseman Matt Chapman in the past to no avail; he has only continued to boost his value in the meantime. But he says he’s interested in remaining with the A’s “for a long time,” as Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Interestingly, Chapman cites the Davis contract as “a step in the right direction” for his own situation. Whether a deal comes together, he says, “is out of [his] control.”
- In a recent profile of superstar quarterback Kyler Murray, who just so happens to have previously signed a contract to join the A’s, SI’s Robert Klemko covers plenty of topics of general interest. From a hot stove perspective, though, there’s one nugget of particular interest: per Klemko, the Oakland ballclub dangled an additional $14MM contract to keep Murray from heading to the NFL. That offer evidently was made in January as Murray was pondering whether to declare for the draft (which he ultimately did). The A’s would have added that sum on top of the $4.66MM they had already promised him. While there’s no evident path to a deal at this point, now that Murray has positioned himself as the likely top overall pick in the NFL draft, it’s a fascinating number to contemplate — with multi-faceted connections to the valuation of amateur talent, the evaluation of recent extensions signed by current MLB players, and the willingness of MLB teams to sacrifice draft picks (when you consider the huge risk that the A’s took — and were willing to double down on — for a talented but still undeveloped player).
- That cash is small potatoes compared to the still-uncertain stadium situation in Oakland. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted yesterday, there has been a notable recent development. Alameda County has lined up a deal with the team to sell the municipality’s ownership interest in the O.co Coliseum site to the A’s, with a vote scheduled for tomorrow to approve. That’s part of the club’s recently announced plan to build a new park on another site while redeveloping its current home. (That idea arose after prior plans were scuttled.)
- Focusing on the immediate roster needs, the A’s are surely anxious to get Matt Olson’s bat back in the lineup. The first bagger’s injured hand seems to be on the mend; as manager Bob Melvin told reporters including Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle, via Twitter, Olson was able to take cuts off a tee for the first time today. That’s a promising development, though there’ll be further hurdles to clear before Olson is ready to make it back to the MLB roster.
Notes from around the game’s western divisions…
- The A’s are “not giving up” on Kyler Murray, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Murray’s widely perceived as first-round selection in the forthcoming NFL Draft – he’s the 8th best ranked prospect on Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest big board – and recently checked in at an encouraging (for NFL teams) 5’10 and 207 lbs, just a half-inch shorter than Seahawks QB Russell Wilson during his combine appearance in 2013. His status, in fact, continues to soar: NFL Network reports suggest that the QB/OF is now “universally” projected to go first overall in April’s draft. Still, as Rosenthal reminds us, the A’s can still beat any NFL offer for Murray by offering him an unrestricted major-league deal that would guarantee him a spot on the 40-man. Baker Mayfield, last year’s first overall selection in the NFL Draft, signed a guaranteed deal worth nearly $33MM, so any investment of the kind in Murray, a player with only 238 AB in two college seasons, would be a significant risk. Still, the gamble may yet prove to be a worthy one under the current rookie-scale structure, where even the best players struggle to eclipse $5MM combined in their first four full major league campaigns.
- Mariners righty Felix Hernandez, who clung ardently to a world-beating changeup at the height of his reign, has bluntly been informed that his best pitch is now his curveball, as the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish writes. Indeed, per FanGraphs’ pitch value metrics, the curve was easily tops among Hernandez’s offerings in 2018, the worst in a storied Seattle career for the Venezuelan. With just 0.7 combined fWAR in over 230 IP the last two seasons, and an average fastball velocity that reached a career-low 89.3 MPH in ’18, Hernandez knows his grip on the last rotation spot in the Mariner rotation is tenuous at best. Remarkably, the King, who’s thrown nearly 2,700 innings at the big-league level since his teenage debut, will be just 33 years old for much of the year, and may yet have a second act left in him.
- Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo is tired of waiting for an opportunity, as Bill Plunkett of the OC Register explains: “I hit .330 for two years. I mean – at a certain point, numbers don’t lie. I’ve hit in the minor leagues. I think I’m a career over .300 hitter. Everybody wants to talk about ‘It’s the minors. It’s not the big leagues.’ I hit over .300 against lefties in my career. I hit righties and lefties very well in my career.” Verdugo, who’s been knocked in multiple circles for makeup issues dating back to high school, may again have a bird’s-eye view of the action this year – per Plunkett, the Dodgers “expect” to align their outfield with Cody Bellinger in right and A.J. Pollock in center; Joc Pederson, too, comes in with a career 118 wRC+ total under his belt, and Verdugo wouldn’t seem the logical choice to spell him against his left-handed kryptonite. The 22-year-old isn’t wrong about his batting average totals, but the power numbers – a .122 and .143 ISO in the last two seasons, respectively – leave plenty of room for improvement.
The Athletics were hit with the news today that top 2018 draft choice Kyler Murray intends to pursue a career in the NFL. While that seemed to all but resolve the question of which sport he’d pursue, the Oakland organization may not be ready to concede the matter.
According to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link), the A’s still intend to engage with Murray’s camp as his NFL draft journey begins. As Rosenthal notes, the club still can beat any offer that a football team makes, at least in theory, by dangling a guaranteed MLB contract on top of the MLB draft bonus money that Murray presently stands to sacrifice.
Though the Heisman Trophy winner is now going to turn his full attention to football, his draft prospects remain up in the air. It’s certainly possible Murray will end up being taken lower than some pundits expect. Regardless where he goes, his earnings will be capped by the NFL draft slotting system, so the Oakland org will at least have a chance to submit a final, higher bid.
Realistically, there’s sure to be a limit as to how much cash the A’s will put up to keep Murray off the gridiron. The team clearly values his future, particularly since there’s no compensation for losing him, but Murray is also a long way from being a big league contributor. There’s risk in any prospect, but he’s seen a particularly boom-or-bust player given his relative lack of polish on the diamond.
It’ll certainly be fascinating, for a variety of reasons, to see how high the Oakland organization will ultimately bid for Murray, if it does indeed attempt to woo him back. Perhaps he won’t even entertain another baseball offer if he receives a good enough opportunity with the right NFL franchise. For the time being, there’s still some uncertainty to the matter — at least, that is, from the A’s perspective.
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.
Astros owner Jim Crane said Friday that the team’s still interested in re-signing free agents Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez, and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow addressed that Saturday. The Astros “would, of course, love” to have those two back, Luhnow admitted, though he declined further comment on their futures. Luhnow did, however, reveal “there is a decent likelihood” the Astros will make another move, perhaps to pick up starting pitching, relief or position player help, and that he wouldn’t hesitate to trade top prospects to improve the Astros’ rotation. “I did it twice already. And I’m prepared to do it again,” said Luhnow, who swung blockbuster trades for right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole from 2017-18 and whose club has lost fellow starters Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. since last season ended. The Astros haven’t made any significant trades yet this offseason, though it hasn’t been for lack of effort. They’ve finished second or third in multiple deals, according to Luhnow, who noted, “We’ve tried and we’ll continue to try” (Twitter links via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle).
The latest on a couple of Houston’s division rivals…
- The Rangers have spent big in the past, and 26-year-old superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain free agents as February approaches, potentially making either a fit for the club. However, Texas is not in position to make a splash on the open market this winter, general manager Jon Daniels told TR Sullivan of MLB.com and other reporters Saturday. “We are probably a year away from adding cornerstone-type pieces,” Daniels said. “Our plan all along has been to get the staff in place, get this young group in place, develop them, put in our new systems and as we move into the new ballpark, kind of change the focus.” The “young group” Daniels referenced includes Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and Jose Leclerc, among others, Sullivan reports. While any of those players could be trade chips, it seems the current plan is to keep them around as the Rangers gear up for their move to Globe Life Field in 2020.
- Even after signing Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada in free agency, the Athletics may land another starter before spring training, according to general manager David Forst (via Melissa Lockard of The Athletic; subscription required). The A’s were quite reliant on utilizing the opener strategy in 2018, though Forst suggested both Fiers and Estrada will continue as traditional starters. As of now, those two are projected to join any of Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks, Frankie Montas or even high-end prospect Jesus Luzardo in the A’s season-opening rotation, per Forst. Oakland also has several rehabbing hurlers – including the trio of Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk – and they’re all making progress, as Lockard details. When healthy, some of those pitchers might factor into the A’s bullpen, a group that could pick up another left-hander, Forst revealed. The only southpaw reliever on their 40-man roster is Ryan Buchter, who excelled in 2018. Securing further catching depth is on the team’s radar, too, executive vice president Billy Beane stated (via Chris Haft of MLB.com). While the A’s do have a quality catcher prospect in Sean Murphy, who could debut in 2019, their behind-the-plate situation at the major league level is uninspiring. Their only 40-man catchers are Josh Phegley and free-agent signing Chris Herrmann, and those two haven’t done much in the majors.
- Meanwhile, although Athletics outfield prospect and ex-Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray declared for the 2019 NFL Draft earlier this month, the A’s expect him to report to camp. “There’s been nothing from their side that suggests otherwise,” Beane said Saturday (via Haft). Murray, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, may end up as a first-round pick in the NFL, which would seem to make it a long shot that he’d ever suit up for the A’s.
Athletics outfield prospect and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray announced today that he has formally declared for the NFL Draft. While this is a largely procedural move that was widely anticipated and does not preclude him from opting to continue as a professional baseball player, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Murray “has informed the Oakland A’s of his intention to follow his heart to the NFL” (Twitter link).
It’s not feasible for Murray to endure the rigors of playing quarterback in the NFL and then also playing baseball in the spring and summer; reports from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser and Henry Schulman indicated last week that there was no scenario in which Murray would play both sports professionally. Schefter tweets today that Murray’s mind “has been made up,” though there is of course still time for a late change of heart.
The Athletics have reportedly been discussing signing Murray to a Major League contract and adding him to the 40-man roster as a means of swaying him away from a football career. While ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported last night that the league would not stand in the way of Murray signing a Major League deal so quickly despite the fact that the collective bargaining agreement ruled out MLB contracts for draftees back in 2012, Schefter’s reports today suggest that Murray isn’t all that likely to be swayed. He does technically still have a few weeks to decide, and the Athletics, it seems, can continue to negotiate with agent Scott Boras in the meantime.
As I noted last week when looking at the situation, if Murray is drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, he stands to earn more than double the $4.66MM signing bonus that the Athletics gave him when selecting him with the ninth overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft. Last year’s No. 32 pick in the NFL Draft, Lamar Jackson, signed for nearly $9.5MM and will earn every bit of that sum; beyond that, he quickly ascended to a starter’s role in the NFL. On the flip side, even after signing a theoretical Major League deal, Murray would still need to spend at the very least one to two seasons developing in front of sparse minor league crowds before reaching the big leagues.
Should Murray pursue his career in football, Slusser and Schulman reported last week that the Athletics will not receive a compensatory pick in this June’s draft. Murray would have to return that $4.66MM bonus to Oakland, though he’d quite likely be setting himself up to earn substantially more money in the very near future.
8:30pm: Murray and his camp haven’t made any salary demands in talks with the Athletics, Slusser reports (Twitter link).
5:35pm: Kyler Murray has until tomorrow to declare his eligibility for the NFL Draft, and a contingent from the A’s front office (including Billy Beane and David Forst) is meeting with the two-sport star and his camp today to try and convince him to remain in the Athletics’ farm system rather than pursue a pro football career. The situation could result in a unique resolution between the two sides and the league itself, as ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan is reporting (Twitter links) that if the A’s and Murray can agree to a Major League contract that would guarantee Murray more money for sticking with baseball, Major League Baseball wouldn’t object.
As Passan explains in follow-up tweets, league rules prevent a team from signing a drafted player to an MLB contract straight out of the draft. In Murray’s case, he has already signed a minor league deal last summer, which included a $4.6MM bonus as the ninth overall selection in the 2018 draft. Since Murray is already technically under contract, no league rules would be broken if Oakland was to sign him to a Major League contract now and add him to its 40-man roster. As Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times notes (Twitter link), Major League Baseball wouldn’t believe that Murray and the A’s were in violation of the draft pool system with this new contract unless the league felt such a handshake agreement for more money was made last summer, before Murray was originally signed.
The eye-popping news comes in the wake of reports from earlier today from WFAA’s Mike Leslie, who heard from a source that Murray wanted $15MM in new money to forego the NFL for the Athletics. While Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the $15MM figure is “too high,” she notes that the A’s and Murray’s representatives from the Boras Corporation “are working on trying something creative to accommodate” a new agreement.
Since being drafted by the A’s last summer, Murray’s star has risen following a season that saw the quarterback win the Heisman Trophy and lead Oklahoma to a slot in the College Football Playoff. Slusser and Henry Schulman of the Chronicle reported earlier this week that Murray was now leaning towards declaring for the NFL Draft, as he’d gain more money beyond $4.66MM (which would be given back to the A’s) as a potential first-round pick, and Murray could potentially be on an NFL field as soon as September, rather than facing at least a few seasons in the minors before cracking the Athletics’ Major League roster.
Perhaps with a nod to Murray’s higher profile, Major League Baseball sent some marketing executives to today’s meeting between Murray and the A’s front office, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports. As Passan put it, the league’s willingness to permit a Major League contract this early in Murray’s pro baseball career is indicative of how “special a situation” MLB considers Murray’s case to be, as “Murray in MLB would be a coup.”
It stands to reason that other teams could raise objections to a new Murray contract, though the circumstances are unique enough that it isn’t likely to lead to a future flurry of teams trying to find loopholes around the draft pool system. One rival general manager tells The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that “Everyone knows this isn’t circumvention….I actually hope the A’s can get it done. It would be good for the game for Murray to play baseball.”
The other interesting wrinkle about a new contract is that it would tweak Murray’s timeline to the majors. If Murray is placed on the 40-man roster, 2019 would become his first option year, so he’d be out of options following the 2022 season. That leaves the A’s with less time to access Murray’s prospect potential, though the club clearly sees that as a preferred scenario to losing Murray (and wasting a first-round pick) entirely should he opt for the NFL.
JAN. 13: Athletics executive vice president Billy Beane is among those meeting with Murray today in hopes of convincing him to choose baseball over football, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. General manager David Forst is also on hand, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who adds a decision isn’t expected to come Sunday.
JAN. 9: 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 $4.66MM 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 (Twitter link), 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 $4.66MM 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 multi-year 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-$9.5MM 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.
Some items out of Oakland….
- The A’s aren’t expected to revisit extension negotiations with Khris Davis until later in the offseason, though the two sides will surely talk prior to the January 11 deadline for exchanging arbitration figures. Davis is projected to earn $18.1MM in 2019, his final year before free agency, though Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that Oakland stands a decent chance of retaining Davis for 2020 via the qualifying offer. A longer-term deal still could be attractive for the Athletics, however, as a way of saving themselves some money in overall average annual value. A source tells Slusser that the length of an extension “is far more important to Davis than the annual value of the contract,” as Davis surely would like some long-term security given how the free agent market has somewhat harshly treated bat-first players over the last two years.
- Heisman Trophy winner and A’s draft pick Kyler Murray pointed towards the Athletics as his future destination, telling reporters (including KFOR.com’s Dylan Buckingham) Wednesday that, “As of right now, I’m going to play baseball. That’s about it.” Murray had given some recent indications that he could reconsider an NFL career in the wake of his star performance as Oklahoma’s quarterback this season, though yesterday’s statement would seem to indicate that he is ultimately preparing to join the Athletics’ farm system once his collegiate career is over. Scott Boras, Murray’s agent, also more or less said as much when speaking to MLB.com’s Jane Lee and other media members Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. “When you win the Heisman Trophy, you are going to have a lot of information come to you and be looked at,” Boras said. “All I know is Kyler has a tremendous opportunity to be a great baseball player. He knows that, and I think that opportunity is already in place. He has every intention to be in Spring Training and advance that interest.” Murray was the ninth overall pick of the 2018 draft, and his A’s contract (which included a $4.66MM bonus) allowed him to play football for Oklahoma this season.
- In a preview of today’s Rule 5 Draft, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America writes that A’s shortstop prospect Richie Martin is rumored as the Orioles’ choice as the draft’s first overall pick. Oakland picked Martin 20th overall in the 2015 amateur draft, and after dealing with knee problems during his first three pro seasons, Martin broke out to hit .300/.368/.439 over 509 plate appearances for Double-A Midland in 2018. The Athletics couldn’t find room for him on the 40-man roster, however, and now the team stands a good chance of losing Martin in the Rule 5 Draft, be it the Orioles or another interested club. Any team that takes Murray must keep him on their Major League roster for the entire 2019 season, or else offer him back to the A’s for $50K. Cooper’s piece is well worth a full read for a look at some of the intriguing young players who could be Rule 5 picks today at 11am CT.
Recent top Athletics draft pick Kyler Murray is most famous for his role as a standout quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, but he already inked a $4.66MM deal to join the Oakland organization over the summer. Some whispers have circulated that Murray could be enticed by the NFL draft, where he might also be a first-round talent, but agent Scott Boras largely shot down that idea in a chat today with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
If Boras was not quite fully committing, he nevertheless did not leave much wiggle room for his client. “Kyler has every intention of fulfilling his agreement with the A’s,” said Boras, who adds that Murray “will be in Spring Training with the A’s” (as Fancred’s Jon Heyman indicated earlier this week, on Twitter).
That’s good news for the Oakland organization, which surprised many by taking Murray ninth overall. There is no questioning his immense athletic ability, of course, but the collegiate star is much more accomplished and polished on the gridiron — if only due to the fact that he has focused his attention to that higher-profile collegiate pursuit.
Notably, as Slusser explains, the A’s have a lot to lose if Murray changes his mind. While the club would get its money back, it wouldn’t receive a compensatory pick as occurs in situations where no agreement is consummated in the first place. As part of the initial deal with Murray, the Athletics organization agreed to allow him to finish out his career at OU.
Murray himself had raised a few eyebrows with recent comments in which he seemingly indicated there was still an opening for a football future. Certainly, his draft stock has risen after an immense season for the Sooners, though it still seems unlikely he’d be considered at the very top of the draft class due to his short stature. Regardless, Boras suggests that Murray’s words shouldn’t be parsed too closely. After all, he is being pressed with attention as he nears a potential Heisman Trophy.