As Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals prepare for the 2021 NFL season, Arizona’s franchise quarterback created new headlines by reminding everyone he hasn’t given up on his baseball dream. It’s left many wondering whether the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and the No. 9 selection in the MLB Draft could have a future in baseball.
It’s certainly something the Cardinals hope never comes to fruition. Arizona is projected to be a playoff team this fall and feels confident it is set for the foreseeable future with a franchise quarterback and team leader. But Murray, after a few years away from the gridiron, misses the game.
This isn’t a Tim Tebow situation. The New York Mets signed him after his NFL career ended, seeing an opportunity to sell tickets to minor-league games. Tebow made it further than many expected, reaching the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, but he never had the talent to be an MLB player.
After Murray raised the possibility of playing two sports professionally, many flashed back to Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. Before we dive into whether or not Murray could realistically return to baseball, let’s examine his time on the diamond.
Kyler Murray high school baseball stats
Murray emerged as a two-sport star coming out of Allen High School in Texas. Any time he took the field at quarterback, college coaches and scouts from across the country filled the stands to watch one of the most exciting players in the nation. Likewise, MLB scouts did the same when he stepped onto the diamond.
The 5-foot-11 shortstop dominated his competition in Texas, immediately starring as a sophomore on the varsity team. In 34 games, he posted a .302/.409/.443 slash line, stealing 20 bases and scoring 31 runs. He continued to make strides as a hitter, credited by The Undefeated with nine home runs as a junior.
While his stats took a slight step back in his senior year (.286 BA), much of that was attributed to his dedication to football. He still holds the honor of being the first player ever selected to play in the Under Armour All-American games for both football and baseball.
MLB Pipeline rated him as the No. 34 prospect in the 2015 MLB Draft and there was a belief he could be a first-round pick. But Murray opted out of the MLB Draft in May 2015, focusing his efforts on college football.
Kyler Murray college baseball career
Murray didn’t find success at Texas A&M, resulting in a transfer to the Oklahoma Sooners. Upon his arrival, the Sooners gave him the opportunity to shine in both baseball and football.
Admittedly, things got off to a rough start. He made a strong impression in a limited role for Oklahoma’s football team, flashing signs of his talent, but he rarely made good contact with the bat.
- Kyler Murray baseball stats (2017): .122/.317/.122, 20 strikeouts in 49 ABs, 12 stolen bases and 13 walks
- Kyler Murray football stats (2017): 359 passing yards, 142 rushing yards and three touchdowns in seven games
But entering his age-20 season, everything clicked for Murray. He was named Oklahoma’s starting quarterback, scored 56 touchdowns and won the Heisman Trophy. On the diamond, Murray impressed in the outfield and made a huge impact at the plate.
- Kyler Murray college baseball stats (2018): .296/.398/.556, .954 OPS, 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 10 stolen bases
Murray became a highly-touted prospect for both the 2018 NFL Draft and 2018 MLB Amateur Draft. Rated as the No. 36 prospect by MLB Pipeline. The Oakland Athletics reached for him with the 9th pick, betting on his athleticism translating into stardom. But once the Cardinals made him the No. 1 pick, not even $14 million was enough to convince Murray to stick with baseball.
Can Kyler Murray play baseball during his NFL career?
Many debated for months whether Murray should choose the NFL or MLB. He made the smart decision, choosing to be a highly-paid quarterback instead of an outfielder working his way through the A’s minor-league teams. But with his recent comments, Murray renewed discussion about whether he could thrive in MLB or even play both sports.
One hurdle standing in his way, Oakland still owns his contractual rights. So this isn’t even a situation where he could play for the Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks. If he really wanted to pursue this two-sport dream, Murray would spend April through August playing for the Lansing Lugnuts (A’s High-A team).
There’s another contextual matter that often gets ignored during the discussion. Even if Murray committed to baseball after the Athletics drafted him, there’s a realistic shot he is still playing in the minors. Of the top-10 picks from the 2018 MLB Draft, many of them are either still in MiLB or considered rookie-eligible in the majors.
- Casey Mize (No.1. pick): 99 career MLB innings
- Joey Bart (No. 2 pick): Playing for Sacramento River Cats (San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A team)
- Jarred Kelenic (No. 6 pick): Playing for Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A club)
- Travis Swaggerty (No. 10 pick): On injured list for Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A team
Keep in mind, Murray had a lot more to prove than those drafted around him. Even if committing fully to baseball suddenly turned him into a top prospect, he would be just one season into his MLB contract. Given nearly every team practices service-time manipulation, keeping a play in the minors to gain more contractual control, Murray wouldn’t have become an MLB free agent for several more years in the best-case scenario.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old is currently one of the NFL’s emerging stars. If he delivers on expectations this year, after three NFL seasons, Murray and the Cardinals can start negotiating a long-term extension. Given nine NFL quarterbacks make $30-plus million per season and others (Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson) will join that club soon, Murray made the right call.
Given the financial commitment that will be made to Murray, it’s a safe bet there will be conditions preventing him from playing baseball.