Kyler Murray and the Oakland A’s are, with MLB’s blessing, engaging in negotiations that has Oakland seeking to convince Murray not to enter the NFL Draft, per multiple reports. Mike Leslie of WFAA has reported that Murray wants $15 million to forego the draft, though Susan Slusser says that number is higher than what is actually being requested.
Murray, 21, was selected 9th overall by the Oakland A’s in the 2018 draft, and was signed to a minor league deal with a $4.66 million signing bonus, which allowed him to return to the University of Oklahoma to play quarterback for the 2018 football season. Murray was outstanding in 2018 for OU, winning the Heisman Trophy and generating talk that, despite his small stature (he’s listed at 5’11” but is believed to be shorter), he could be a first round pick, and possibly a high first rounder, in the NFL Draft.
With the deadline to declare for the draft being Monday, January 14, 2019, Murray has been expected to declare, since there’s no downside in him doing so — he can declare for the NFL draft but stick with MLB if he chooses. However, the A’s and MLB want to avoid the possibility of Murray going to the NFL, and met with Murray and his representatives today to try to work something out, per reports.
Jeff Passan is reporting that MLB would bless the A’s giving Murray a major league deal, adding him to the 40 man roster and allowing them to guarantee him more money than he would receive otherwise. This isn’t, Passan notes, waiving a rule, since the CBA bars signing a drafted player to a major league deal, not subsequently adding a drafted player to the 40 man roster. And Murray’s situation is unique — this does not appear to be a situation where Oakland made an under-the-table deal with Murray before drafting and signing him to add him to the 40 man roster, but Oakland (and MLB) reacting to the possibility of losing Murray to the NFL.
Nevertheless, this appears to be bending the spirit of the rules, and I suspect, if Murray is given financial incentives to forego the NFL draft, will lead to discussions about what other types of bending MLB teams might be able to do to sign preferred draftees for more money.
UPDATE — Kyler Murray has tweeted that he has officially declared for the NFL Draft. This does not, reportedly, impact his MLB contract or status with the Oakland A’s. As a practical matter, with today being the deadline to declare, and with Murray almost certainly not returning to Oklahoma regardless of what happens, this simply keeps his options open.