Kyler Murray Makes Up His Mind

In my blogpost yesterday I mentioned that I’d be publishing another video on our Oakland A’s UK YouTube channel later in the week.

That still stands and I’ll be rounding up and commenting on the main news from the first few days of the A’s Spring Training camp, which as of today (11 February) is officially underway.

However, news has broken today regarding the A’s 2018 First Round draft pick Kyler Murray that merits more immediate discussion, so here goes.

In my Position Player video I put Murray on the A’s Hokey Cokey List as we all waited for him to make up his mind on whether to follow through on his agreement to join the A’s or pursue a potential NFL career instead. He made his position clear today:

As I said in the video, everything was pointing to Murray going down this route and not staying with the A’s (if that’s the way to put it, it doesn’t really seem like he’s been with us to leave us) so it’s far from a surprise.

There are plenty of issues around MLB at the moment – not least of which being the terrible pay of Minor Leaguers, the way teams manipulate the service time clocks of talented youngsters, and the ongoing free agency void – so it’s understandable that some may use Murray’s decision as a way to highlight them.

Doing so doesn’t stack up against the evidence, though, which shows that the truth is Murray’s first preference was always to go to the NFL. This was clear when he made it a condition in signing with the A’s that he could carry on in college football. That wasn’t just one last hurrah, it was a final attempt to show that his relatively small stature for an NFL quarterback didn’t need to hold him back.

His athletic ability and talent gave him the opportunity to both stick and twist, to keep his options open so that he could either play professional baseball and become a millionaire, or sign with an NFL team and become a millionaire. I think we can all agree that’s a nice position to be in.

As an A’s fan, I can’t say I’m all that disappointed. The news has simply confirmed what most of us have expected for months.

Admittedly this is partly due to be a British fan who has very limited knowledge of, and to be honest interest in, college football and the NFL so the star power of Murray isn’t something that registers with me much.

More to the point, given that he hasn’t played a lot of college baseball, it would have taken a while for Murray to get to the Majors and, whilst his athletic ability would have held him in good stead, baseball history is littered with talented athletes who never put it together. The A’s clearly believed in his potential, but no one really knows how he might have developed. We have may have missed out on a potential All-Star. We may have missed out on a fourth outfielder.

In other words, I don’t feel cheated of ‘what might have been’ as it’s hard to know what expectations we should have had.

I also don’t feel overly critical of the A’s Front Office in all of this. They have had numerous conversations with Murray, his family and advisor Scott Boras from before making the decision to select him in the draft to now. They knew, and continue to know, vastly more about this than we do from the outside and that’s what they based their decision on.

Based on what I’ve read, it seems to be the case that Murray had a great season with Oklahoma and that spun everything around. It’s fair to question as a result whether the A’s should have allowed him to go back to Oklahoma. Had they made it a ‘sign and stay’ requirement then they would at least have got a compensatory draft pick for 2019 if he had refused.

Again, it all comes back to the discussions that were had before they even decided to sign him. The A’s must have heard enough, and liked his baseball potential enough, to take on the risk. Billy Beane was asked today, before the news broke, if he would change his decision if he could go back and do so, but that’s an option no one ever has. All you can do is make the best decision as things are known at the time.

What matters now is that the A’s have lost a first round player from their farm system, so that will put even more attention on the team making good selections in their 2019 draft. And from the more immediate position we also need to look at the financial aspect:

I’ve not yet read a definitive explanation as to what the A’s can do with the returned $1.29m and the allocated $3.16m. Spending on the amateur draft and international talent is now tightly controlled, so I’m not sure if they can add that back into that pot or if it can be spent on the Major League roster. Indeed, the latter was on MLB.com A’s beat writer Jane Lee’s mind when she read Jeff Passan’s tweet.

I have no bad feelings towards Murray in all of this, if his heart if set on the NFL then there’s no point in denying that, but I do wonder if he’s been entirely fair to the A’s in all of this and the fact that he didn’t even mention the team in his announcement tweet seems a bit off.

So maybe the A’s will get a bit of good luck out of it. Perhaps the silver lining to this cloud is a bit of extra money in the kitty to get a deal over the line for a much-needed starting pitcher?

For all the talent and potential Murray possesses, I’d trade that for a World Series Championship in 2019!

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