Look past the NFL Draft hype machine and you’ll see Kyler Murray really wants to play baseball — and baseball needs him in a bad way.
Baseball desperately needs Kyler Murray, and it sure seems like he wants to make that dream come true.
There’s less than a day left for Murray to decide whether his future is on the diamond or the gridiron. After 4 pm ET on Monday, the NFL closes its door to applicants looking to declare for the draft. While it seems like a big decision for Murray, it means much more to the entire sport of baseball than it does to the player.
What Murray should decide to do isn’t a new question. We’ve all been pondering it since the Oakland A’s drafted him No. 9 overall last June, but it’s become more complicated after his stellar year at Oklahoma. It was much easier to argue that he should choose the baseball track before he lit up highlight reels on one of the country’s top-ranked offense, winning a Heisman Trophy almost accidentally.
All of these things are Murray-centric. The biggest factor at play isn’t his intangibles so much as it’s baseball’s interest in how this shakes out.
It’s no secret at this point, but baseball has a massive publicity problem. Both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have been free agents since November, and the needle of interest has barely moved. Antonio Brown hasn’t formally asked for a trade yet and his drama is the biggest soap opera in football — during the playoffs. How badly MLB has bungled this opportunity to thrust itself into the spotlight of national sports attention is a tragedy.
That’s why it so badly needs Murray, the Heisman Trophy-winning darling of the football world, to play baseball. Rob Manfred needs the headline-grabbing national obsession with Murray to end with him spurning the most popular sports league in America. You cannot put a price on that sort of clout.
It was erroneously reported that Murray was asking for $15 million, but just the fact that he was asking the A’s to find a way to make their relationship work is all you need to know.
Beane and the A’s have all the negotiating leverage. By simply meeting with Oakland, Murray was admitting he’s extremely interested in playing baseball instead of football. This put the A’s in a position where they can tell Murray to go to the combine, knowing there’s a decent chance he shows up in Mesa later that month for Spring Training.
Scott Boras, his agent, badly misplayed his hand by failing to leverage the draft process. You’d think the most powerful agent in baseball would be able to come up with the idea of threatening to play football as a means of securing more money out of a baseball team. Boras’ long play has been to emphatically state over and over that Murray has zero interest in football, which was a rookie mistake. Instead, it was Murray, the 21-year old without an agency license, who moved the negotiating needle once he hinted at an interest in football. If Murray ends up making more on baseball contracts than he would have on football deals, Boras shouldn’t get a cent of the difference.
It doesn’t immediately matter if Murray is any good in the Majors. The amount of money spent and the number of rules that get bent to make this happen doesn’t matter. All that matters is when late April comes, Kyler Murray is sitting in Stockon with the A’s high Single-A team and not in a greenroom in Nashville.