With Oakland Athletics spring training opening on Monday, a fresh, green No. 73 jersey hung in Kyler Murray’s locker at Hohokam Park. The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Oklahoma, picked No. 9 overall in last June’s Major League Draft, had been invited to big league camp. The question, after Murray declared for the NFL Draft, was: Would he show up in Arizona?
“We’ve had ongoing conversations as it relates to the situation, as it relates to the situation, and as it relates Kyler’s future, period, not just with baseball,” A’s vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane told assembled reporters on Monday morning. “I don’t have any answers for you, and I probably won’t until we’ve decided on the process. What I can tell you is it hasn’t been decided, and the conversations will continue.”
Beane and general manager David Forst have repeatedly said that they do not regret picking Murray ninth overall last June, but shortly after Beane addressed the media on Monday, Murray tweeted what amounted to his own decision: He’s committing to playing quarterback in the NFL, and will attend the NFL Combine, set for Feb. 26-March 4.
“Moving forward,” Murray tweeted,” I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback. Football has been my love and passion my entire life. I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100% of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships.”
Murray went on to say that he’s started an extensive training program, and is preparing for workouts and interviews with NFL teams.
That seems to close the door on Murray playing in the A’s system as an outfielder at this point, however Oakland would retain his baseball rights should he decide to pursue baseball at any future juncture. He will go on the restricted list, and the A’s will not receive a compensatory draft pick for him. Murray did not mention the A’s at all in his tweet, though they do remain a part of his Twitter avatar.
“We knew this was a possibility,” said Forst. “We’ve been talking to Kyler since the day we drafted him, and he has great options.”
When asked when the A’s knew Murray would choose football, Forst equivocated.
“We’ve known all along that this was a possibility,” he said. “We’ve been in constant contact, and we knew he had a great option in the NFL, so we’ve known for a while that there was a chance that this was going to happen.”
Asked when he knew definitively that it would happen, Forst said, “That’s not the story here. We’ve known from the tone of the conversations that he could choose the NFL. We’ll focus on what we need to do that if he comes back to baseball, he’ll come back with the A’s.”
Beane, Forst said, had spoken with agent Scott Boras after the announcement, but had not spoken yet with Murray himself.
By not reporting to spring training, he will have to return $1.29 million of the $1.5 million signing bonus money he has already received, and will forfeit the $3.16 million due on March 1. He will likely make up that money in his first NFL contract. If he’s picked last in the first round of the NFL Draft, he’d make roughly $5 million in signing bonus, with about $10 million guaranteed.
In late January, Beane, Forst and a contingent from Major League Baseball’s marketing arm visited Murray in his Dallas home. A rule was later proposed by Major League Baseball to allow dual-sport athletes to be given a Major League contract, which would guarantee Major League money, hopefully to entice players like Murray in the future.
“We had a lot of options of things we could do. In Kyler’s and his family’s defense, they never asked us to do anything,” Forst said. “This wasn’t a case where we talked contract. They made it clear that until they knew what they wanted to do, they weren’t going to ask us for anything. There were a lot of things we discussed internally, but it wasn’t a negotiation that got cut off or anything like that.”
Murray is projected to go anywhere from No. 10 to the Denver Broncos to (most frequently) No. 13 to the Miami Dolphins, to not even in the first round. At the time Oakland drafted Murray, he wasn’t even pegged as the starting quarterback for the Sooners, but won a quarterback battle and wound up throwing for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns to seven interceptions and completing 69.0 percent of his passes, to go along with 1,001 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
“We’ve known how much he loves football, and the great position he put himself in with an incredible year at Oklahoma,” Forst said. “We enjoyed watching him play. He’s an incredible athlete, and you enjoyed what he was doing on the field, and this is about Kyler. This wasn’t about what it meant for the A’s. We picked him because we thought he would be an incredible baseball player some day. His games at OU were not about the A’s.”
On the diamond for the Sooners, Murray hit .296 in 2018, with a .398 OBP, a .556 slugging percentage, 10 home runs, three triples, 13 doubles and 10 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
“We took the best athlete on the board, and who we thought was probably the best baseball player on the board, too,” Forst said. “Eric [Kubota] and his staff did an incredible job identifying Kyler, the process was right, and we don’t regret the pick at all.”