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Why an MLB career is highly doubtful for Kyler Murray

Matt Johnson
Kyler Murray
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray wiped any references to his team on social media, many speculated it could be a sign he wanted a change. While most thought he might want a trade, others revisited the possibility of Murray returning to baseball.

The 5-foot-10 NFL star is an incredible athlete, one who excelled at every sport he played from youth through college. Even as he achieved success in pro football, Murray told the Cardinals’ website in 2021 that he is confident he could achieve a successful MLB career.

“I know everybody around (the organization) probably feels different about it. But me personally, I played the game my whole life. If I ever had the opportunity, for sure, I would definitely go for it. What are we talking about? I’m sure anyone asking me about it would (take that opportunity) too. I’m not trying to start anything. I’m just talking.”

Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Muray on a potential MLB career, via Darren Urban

Standing in his way is his rookie contract, which prohibits him from playing baseball. However, wiping any connection to the Cardinals on Twitter and Instagram caused speculation that he might want to explore switching sports.

Examining Kyler Murray’s baseball stats and history

NFL: NFC Wild Card Playoffs-Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A two-sport star coming out of Allen High School in Texas, Murray attracted scouts on both the diamond and gridiron. College football coaches and MLB scouts both flocked to Texas to witness his unique talents on display.

Murray dominated over the competition in Texas, starring as a sophomore on the varsity team. In 34 games, he posted a .302/.409/.443 slash line with 20 steals and 31 runs. He made strides at the plate with more time, 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 even played 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.

Murray struggled early in his collegiate career at Texas A&M, eventually transferring to Oklahoma. The Sooners offered him the opportunity to play both sports. He showed promise in 2017, but it didn’t really all come together until 2018.

  • Kyler Murray baseball stats (2017): .122/.317/.122, 20 strikeouts in 49 ABs, 12 stolen bases and 13 walks
  • Kyler Murray college baseball stats (2018): .296/.398/.556, .954 OPS, 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 10 stolen bases

As Murray wrapped up his 2018 seasons with the Sooners’ baseball and football teams, his draft stock rose. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 36th prospect for June’s MLB Draft. The Cardinals drafted with the 1st pick on April 26 in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, it didn’t stop the Oakland Athletics from taking him 9th overall on June 4 in MLB’s amateur draft.

Despite plenty of debate regarding whether he’d choose a baseball or football career, the money and quick path to stardom in the NFL made it a clear decision. Fast forward to 2022, it’s an even easier call to make.

Related: 2022 NFL Power Rankings – Outlook for all 32 teams entering summer

Why an MLB career isn’t a viable option for Kyler Murray

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

One of the reasons the NFL Draft and college football are more popular than the MLB Draft and college baseball is instant gratification. Fans want to see players either thrive or fail at the highest level immediately. Murray started at quarterback for the Cardinals in Week 1, that wouldn’t have been the case if he signed with the Athletics.

He needed time to develop. While so many of his peers in the MLB Draft focused on baseball in college and got countless reps, Murray split his time between two sports. It impacted his development and meant he would need to spend significant time learning the finer points of the game. It’s an issue MLB evaluators had, despite the undeniable raw talent.

After looking overmatched at the plate in his return to baseball with the Sooners last spring and in the Cape Cod League last summer, he has shown dramatic improvement as a redshirt sophomore…Though he continues to juggle two sports and has lost a lot of at-bats while doing so, Murray has made impressive adjustments at the plate. He’s making better contact and no longer is easy prey for breaking balls, doing a better job of recognizing them and not chasing them off the plate. He has the plus-plus speed to create havoc on the bases and the bat speed and strength to produce average power.

MLB Pipeline on Kyler Murray in 2018

Those who are confident Murray could make the switch to MLB fail to recognize the long road many baseball players undergo just for a shot at the majors. Of the top-20 picks in the 2018 MLB Draft, eight haven’t made their MLB debut.

Among the players that reached the majors, they are all either entering their second season or still considered rookie-eligible. As a result, they are each four-plus years away from hitting free agency. While MLB contracts are fully guaranteed, payrolls across the sport are down and players don’t hit free agency until they’ve played six MLB seasons.

  • Kyler Murray NFL stats (2021): 3,787 passing yards, 24-10 TD-INT, 31 sacks, 100.6 QB rating

Murray already needed work after splitting time between baseball and football. The 24-year-old just spent his last three years dedicated to being an NFL quarterback, not working to refine his skills at the plate.

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It’s not a decision he should regret. Murray is now eligible for a contract extension and while it might not come this offseason, that might work out in his favor. The NFL salary cap and competitive teams are incentivized to spend all of it. As a result, Murray is looking at a multi-year deal worth at least $38 million per season.

Related: Ideal Kyler Murray trade destinations

Compare that to a career change, flipping to MLB amid a lockout with players’ union angry over teams cutting back on spending and manipulating contracts. Murray would need to spend time in the minors and there will be an adjustment period. The A’s, a franchise with one of the lowest payrolls every year, still holds his contractual rights.

The best-case scenario, one that is incredibly unlikely, wouldn’t see Murray get paid quarterback-caliber money until he is almost 30. Murray should stick with the NFL, it’s what he does best and it will pay him a lot more throughout his career.