Two-sport athlete Kyler Murray is expected to declare for the NFL Draft ahead of today's deadline, clouding his baseball career with the A's, who used their first-round pick on the 21-year-old in last June's MLB Draft. But the A's aren't standing idly by as the clock runs out.
Sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Sunday night that MLB officials were vetting the A's proposal of a Major League contract for Murray and thus far believe the new deal was not discussed as an inducement to help the two sides strike a deal after Oakland picked Murray ninth overall last summer. That bodes well for a deal's potential approval by MLB officials.
• FAQ on Murray's unique situation
Murray can declare for the NFL Draft without violating the terms of his contract with the A's; doing so would keep his options open and he can decide between sports definitively in the coming weeks.
Such a contract with the Athletics would offer Murray additional money (and a spot on Oakland's 40-man roster) but would give him four Minor League option years rather than the usual three, because MLB rules grant a fourth option for players expending their third option year before completing five Minor League seasons. Under this scenario, Murray would run out of options after the 2022 season.
Only once they're added to a 40-man roster, players are given three Minor League "options." An option allows that player to be optioned to the Minor Leagues without first being subjected to waivers. When a player is optioned to the Minors for a span of more than 20 days, he loses an option, but an option applies to an entire season, meaning that a player can be sent to the Minors and recalled to the Majors any number of times over the course of a season while only losing one option.
It's key that any additional money coming to Murray now isn't considered part of his original signing bonus because of the penalties clubs face when exceeding their bonus pool allotments. The A's, who worked with a total bonus pool of $9,553,200 at last year's Draft, gave Murray a $4.66 million signing bonus after selecting him. That put in place an agreement that would allow Murray to play one more season of college football with Oklahoma. Then historic numbers came for the dynamic quarterback, and a Heisman Trophy. Now, he is drawing first-round projections from NFL insiders.
When Murray was drafted by Oakland, he was not considered nearly as good of an NFL prospect as he is now, and the change in circumstances (and Murray's leverage) is what could allow the A's to give him more money, since there is no indication this was a long-term ploy to circumvent MLB's Draft rules.
Murray, who's ranked as the A's No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was met in Dallas on Sunday by several Oakland officials attempting to lure him back to the diamond, MLB.com confirmed. Vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst were among the A's leading representatives.
In addition, MLB sent marketing executives from the league office to attend the meeting and present information regarding Murray's off-field earning potential, sources told Morosi.
Murray showed a glimpse of his baseball talent last spring while playing for the Sooners' baseball team, hitting .296/.398/.556 with 10 homers in 189 at-bats and recording 10 steals. He was second on the team in homers and slugging percentage behind only Steele Walker, a second-round pick (No. 46 overall) of the White Sox.
Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the A's wouldn't take issue with Murray declaring for the NFL Draft, since a future in football would yet to be guaranteed, but there could be contractual hurdles in play regarding Murray's participation in the NFL Combine -- which is essentially a must for any Draft hopeful. Playing baseball and football in the same year is not an option.
Murray has the choice of a lifetime in front of him, and he would have to return his signing bonus should he forgo a future playing center field for the A's. However, the club would not receive a compensation pick in this June's MLB Draft. Oakland would, though, retain his professional baseball rights, meaning he could still play for the A's if football doesn't pan out.