For those of you who need a quick refresher, Arizona Cardinal quarterback Kyler Murray use to play baseball.
He was pretty good.
So good in fact that in the summer of 2018, young Murray was drafted 9th overall in the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics.
Then he decided, even with the draft slot set to net him somewhere near $5 million dollars guaranteed, to play the fall football season for his Oklahoma Sooners.
Murray, of course, would then go on to secure a Heisman Trophy en route to helping the Sooners reach the 2019 College Football Playoff.
Suddenly, with Major League Baseball waiting idly by, the big bad NFL came calling.
With a historic college football season now in the books, Murray was suddenly faced with the gargantuan choice between entering the A’s player system or opting to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Following a dicey interview with Dan Patrick prior to the NFL Combine, Murray finally announced his intention to play football on January 14th, 2019:
I have declared for the NFL Draft.— Kyler Murray (@K1) January 14, 2019
Fast forward roughly 16 months later, and Murray not only became the first overall selection to the Arizona Cardinals, but also secured Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Not to mention Murray netted himself a four year rookie deal that will pay him roughly $35 million in guaranteed dollars. Even after the A’s opted to bump up Murray’s proposed contract, their offer was still 16.6 million less than what Michael Bidwill and the Cardinals would pay him.
At this point, with Murray’s short term and long term outlook in place, it appeared as if the young gunslinger had made the right decision choosing football.
Sure, the top 1% of professional baseball players achieve historic wealth but so do starting NFL quarterbacks.
If Murray continues to ascend as a 22 year old signal caller (and he’s currently tied for sixth to be league MVP in only his second season), does anyone doubt that Michael Bidwill will cut him a historic check within the next 3-4 years?
It’s going to happen.
That is, it should, as long as the Cardinals continue to show young Kyler that they’re committed to winning. This specific topic of conversation has always struck a nerve with Cardinal fans, but the fact that the Oakland A’s still hold Murray’s baseball rights for the foreseeable future gives him some leverage.
Leverage over a franchise that holds the longest championship draught in all of sports.
Remember, unlike the NBA, franchise quarterbacks aren’t typically allowed to hit the open market thanks to the franchise tag. Generally, quarterbacks are locked into a single franchise for the majority of their playing career until the team opts to move on.
Kirk Cousins, formally of the Washington Redskins, is typically used as the outlier in this scenario. However, it was Washington (not Cousins), who was continually hesitant in locking in multiple years for the former Michigan Spartan QB.
While Cardinal general manager Steve Keim has previously reported that Arizona’s deal with Murray offered financial protection against him wanting to go back to baseball, that’s not the entire story.
If Murray wanted to pursue baseball again, primarily because of the Cardinals inability to field a winning product around him, the franchise would not be able to stop him.
That has always felt like a farfetched scenario to most, and they’d be right. But I’d be lying to say that I haven’t at least entertained the notion of it being possible.
Enter the Oakland A’s during a global pandemic.
For those unaware, the team that still holds Murray’s baseball rights opted to not only furlough half of their front office but flat out cut off minor league stipends:
“The A’s confirmed that weekly $400 stipends for minor league players would be cut off starting at the end of May and until the uniform player contract suspension is lifted. The team had agreed to pay its minor leaguers the stipend through May 31.”
Keep in mind that many MLB teams are opting to remain paying their minor leaguers as the pandemic continues. The following is according to SI’s John Hickey:
There are nine teams who have committed to stipend payments through August – the Astros, Marlins, Twins, Padres, Reds, Royals, Mariners, Red Sox and Yankees. The Reds have gone the rest of the field one better, committing through Sept. 7, the last day on the minor league schedule for 2020.
Another 15 teams have said payments will at least continue through June – the Dodgers, Mets, White Sox, Rays, Rangers, Orioles, Braves, Giants, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers, Phillies, Indians and Pirates.
Not the A’s, however. They are done cutting checks during a global pandemic.
Prior to this announcement, for many years, the Oakland A’s franchise has been seen as one of the cheapest in all of professional sports. To combat this reputation, the franchise did previously offer Murray the chance to begin his career on the major league roster.
Murray knew better.
This announcement comes on the heels of baseball owners and the MLB Players Association continually at each other throats regarding shared revenue in an attempt to startup the 2020 season.
While the UFC and the PGA have begun holding live sporting events again, and both NASCAR and the NBA soon to follow, Major League Baseball is firmly in the backseat. There is continued momentum toward the 2020 season not happening.
If that does become a reality, it won’t be due to safety precautions surrounding COVID-19 but rather money.
It’s always a money problem with Major League Baseball.
It’s always a money problem with the Oakland A’s.
Whether the 2020 season is completed or not, this combative period of negations should serve as a serious warning regarding the upcoming expiring MLB CBA. Many MLB insiders strongly project a 2022 lockout, the first since the 1994-95 season.
So, as we come full circle, what kind of a message does all of this send to Cardinal quarterback Kyler Murray?
Major League Baseball and the Oakland A’s have reaffirmed Murray’s decision to leave baseball behind. In the eye of the consumer, the game of baseball has been trending the wrong way for years while the NFL is essentially lapping all other professional sports leagues.
This scenario should also reaffirm to Michael BIdwill that he’ll likely have Kyler Murray in the fold even if his Cardinal franchise continues to flounder.
He can thank baseball and the A’s for that.