As the Oakland Athletics meet with Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray in an effort to try and convince him to not enter the NFL Draft, both sides are discussing a move that could change MLB for years to come.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland is meeting with Murray’s representatives and working to try and sign him to a new contract in an effort to keep him away from the NFL.
In order for the Athletics to renegotiate and give Murray a new contract, the organization will need to add him to the 40-man roster. Previously, this would have gone against a rule under the new collective bargaining agreement.
However, MLB is reportedly giving the Athletics some leeway to sign him to a new contract given the significance of Murray switching to baseball.
According to Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times, the Athletics could promote Murray to the 40-man roster and give him a major-league contract to serve as a raise. In that case, MLB would not consider it a circumvention of the draft pool system
I'm told the A's could pay more to Kyler Murray by adding him to the 40-man roster (and thus giving him a major league contract). So long as MLB believes the A's didn't promise that before they signed him, MLB would not consider that a circumvention of the draft pool system.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) January 13, 2019
In less than a year, Murray went from a surprising top-10 selection in the 2018 MLB Draft to winning the Heisman Trophy and somehow catapulting his value as a baseball player without taking a single swing.
The only thing that has changed for the Athletics and MLB is marketing. Murray’s scouting report, along with his chance of earning a spot on a major-league roster and living up to his potential have remained the same.
Frankly, the increased investment and hassle almost certainly isn’t even worth it for the Athletics. From 2007-’16, 29 players were selected with a top-10 pick and have yet to make their MLB debut.
Ten of those players came via the 2016 draft class, which has seen only one of its top-30 selections make it to the majors. So even if Murray is on the 40-man roster and kept in the minors to develop, the Athletics could be using that spot and paying an MLB salary to a player who may not make his MLB debut until 2021 — if it ever happens at all.
Keep in mind, Murray hasn’t played in a competitive baseball game since May 24 of last year. While others players from his draft class spent time in the minor leagues or playing winter ball, Murray was on the football field.
Murray offers tantalizing tools with athleticism and power that understandably excites scouts and coaches. However, development takes time and it’s incredibly rare for a player with this little experience to make the move to the majors quickly.
The Athletics are a small-market team that likes to be very smart with its money. Spending this heavily on Murray is not the smart play for the organization. It also may not be the smartest decision for Murray.
If he can be a first-round pick in the NFL, he should come close to whatever potential pay increase the Athletics offer him. He’ll get to live the NFL lifestyle and be at the highest level immediately with a chance to start for an NFL team far before he gets to start for the Athletics.
Oakland took a gamble when it drafted Murray and it backfired with a scenario no one expected. The smart move is to accept the fact it lost the bet and move on rather than doubling down on the bad bet and investing even more.
The Athletics already might have lost a first-round pick because of this, and they don’t need to add on to that. Small-market teams can’t afford many mistakes. Giving an MLB contract and a 40-man spot to an unproven prospect who hasn’t played baseball since May, would be a big one.