The Oakland Athletics are willing to do whatever it takes to get Kyler Murray to play baseball.
Murray won the Heisman Trophy and is considering declaring for the NFL Draft.
As reported by Bob Nightengale, Oakland sent a group to meet with Murray on Sunday.
Oakland took Murray with the ninth pick of the 2018 MLB draft and handed him a signing bonus just shy of $5 million. Billy Beane and the Athletics may well have to guarantee Murray further payment right now and a Major League roster slot if they are to stop him declaring for the NFL Draft. Oakland only lose out if Murray chooses the NFL. The price of keeping him will be enormous, but having talent is always going to be better than not having talent.
Baseball is sitting behind the NFL and NBA right now. The Super Bowl is a highlight of the sporting calendar almost worldwide. LeBron James is as big as any superstar in the world. Baseball has struggled to market itself both in the United States and abroad.
Recent CBAs have tied the hands of baseball front offices when it comes to signing the best young talents. There are caps on draft spending and on payments to international free agents. Pair that with the chronically underpaid grind of the minor leagues and six years of club control should you make it to the Majors, and you have a system that does not reward elite talent.
Players do not have leverage in baseball. Murray and Scott Boras are in a rare position of power, and they are using it to their advantage. This is a once-in-a-generation tug of war between a relatively flourishing NFL and poorly marketed MLB.
Offering Murray a new contract, separate from his draft bonus, does not violate the spirit of the CBA, as reported by Ken Rosenthal on MLB Network.
That is significant.
MLB should be changing their rules regardless. The fact they do not have to break their own CBA to keep Murray changes the dynamic in this unique situation, however. It removes a potential roadblock for the Athletics.
Sport needs stars, and luring Murray from the temptation of being a first round quarterback would be a coup for MLB, not just Oakland. A coup that the sport so desperately needs right now.
A lot needs to change in baseball. Marketing stars like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper better is part of it but attracting those players in the first place is key too. Murray, whether he’s a handy Major Leaguer or a perennial MVP contender, is a going to be in the spotlight for years to come. The attention on him, much like with Shohei Ohtani last winter, means more eyes on baseball.
In an ideal world, this is just be the beginning of several alterations to the sport. Teams need greater flexibility in their recruitment and multi-sport athletes need proper incentivisation to pick baseball over immediate riches and stardom in the NBA and NFL. Minor leaguers pay is an embarrassment and the under compensation of young players once they make the big leagues must be addressed.
Getting Murray to opt for baseball is not a fix-all. Keeping an elite talent in the sport can only be a good thing, though, and it may yet be a catalyst for draft, recruitment and minor league changes that this saga has shone a brighter light on.