Kyler Murray seems to be choosing football now, but don’t be surprised if he changes his mind after a strong push by Major League Baseball.
In August, Kyler Murray was battling Austin Kendall for the starting quarterback job at Oklahoma. At the time Murray’s agent, Scott Boras, stated that Murray would play one season of football for Oklahoma and then head to the MLB where the Oakland Athletics drafted Murray 9th overall in the 2018 MLB draft. Then the 2018 college football season happened. Murray had an incredible college football season, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, culminating in a Heisman Trophy win.
After winning the Heisman in December, Murray said that the plan was to still play professional baseball, but he would love to play both baseball and football professionally. Then, in January, Murray made headlines by officially declaring for the NFL draft. Many in the NFL and MLB still could not determine whether Murray was committed to playing baseball or football. Some argue that Murray could be using the NFL draft as leverage for more money in the MLB.
Major League Baseball has a long history of keeping player wages low. In the 1922 Supreme Court case Federal Club v. National League, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for the court stating that the MLB is exempt from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Holmes reasoned that baseball does not fall under the Commerce Clause because travel is just an “incidence” to baseball. Therefore, because baseball is not interstate commerce, it cannot be subject to the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Major League Baseball used its exemption from federal anti-trust actions as a tool to keep player wages low for many years. After Curt Flood sued then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn in 1973, the Supreme Court held that baseball remained exempt from anti-trust, and that the old way in which players could obtain free agency was through collective bargaining. This brought pressure to bear upon MLB, and in 1975, an arbitrator’s decision under the MLB-MLBPA collective bargaining agreement opened the door to free agency for MLB players. Finally, in 1998, the Curt Flood Act relinquished the MLB’s antitrust exemption in so far as it “directly relates to or affects employment of MLB players to play baseball at the major league level.” Therefore, the exemption still applies to minor league baseball players, keeping their wages low.
Kyler Murray’s unique situation is forcing Major League Baseball to change its ways. The league does not want to lose out on a superstar like Murray. As a result, Major League Baseball has already stated that it would waive a rule that prevents teams from giving major league contracts to recently drafted players so the Athletics can keep Murray from choosing football over baseball.
These many factors have led to an indecisive Kyler Murray, leaving the NFL and MLB uncertain as to which league he will join. Just last week, Murray gave an uncomfortable interview on the Dan Patrick show where he was noncommittal on his future as an NFL or MLB player. The interview led many in the NFL to believe that Murray was leaning towards choosing baseball over football. Murray then squashed any of these concerns by announcing via Twitter yesterday that he was “firmly and fully committing” his “life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback.”
If Murray follows through and chooses football over baseball, he will be giving up most of his $4.66 million signing bonus. Murray has already been paid $1.5 million, but, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, he will have to give back $1.29 of that $1.5 million and forfeit the remaining $3.15 million. Although this seems like a lot of money to give up, Murray is set to make more money in the NFL draft. Baker Mayfield signed a $31.2 million deal with a $20.8 million signing bonus as the first overall pick last year. At the bottom of the first round, Lamar Jackson signed a $9.8 million contract with $5 million in a guaranteed signing bonus. Therefore, as a projected first-round pick, Kyler Murray is set to make more than his $4.66 million MLB contract.
At the present moment, it looks like Kyler Murray is leaning towards football over baseball. However, Ken Rosenthal reported this morning that the Athletics aren’t ready to give up their pursuit of Kyler Murray. The Athletics retained Murray’s baseball rights and he will be placed on the minor-league restricted list indefinitely. Therefore, if Murray reverses course and chooses baseball he would have to return to the Athletics.
With the MLB’s permission to sign Murray to a major league contract and the retention of Murray’s baseball rights indefinitely, the Athletics have the means necessary to make a hard-fought pursuit of signing Kyler Murray. The Athletics can match or beat any contract offer Murray may receive from an NFL team. Therefore, although Kyler Murray seems definitive in his decision now, his decision is not final and could change at any moment.
Kyler Murray’s decision between baseball and football has already been a whirlwind since winning the Heisman Trophy. With two leagues competing for his services, there may be much more back in forth in the coming months. Don’t be surprised when the seesaw that is Kyler Murray’s decision continues to sway.
Twitter – Kyler Murray