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Report: Kyler Murray ‘leaning toward’ football

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Henry Schulman and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle report that the Oakland Athletics expect their 2018 first-rounder — and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner — Kyler Murray to declare for the NFL Draft.

Does this mean that Murray will choose football over a professional career in baseball? Not necessarily, but a source told the San Francisco Chronicle that he is currently “leaning toward” an NFL career. Previously it had been reported that he was more likely to play baseball than football.

It’s possible that Murray is simply keeping his options open, but the calendar is worth noting: spring training begins in mid-February, the NFL combine is in late February, and the draft is in late April. His stock would likely be much higher in the draft if he has committed to football. At the same time, with the draft in the near future, declaring for it in the run-up to spring training could provide some sort of leverage for him with the A’s, though the form that pressure might take is unclear given that they have control over him for several years if he decides to play baseball. We talked recently about the pros and cons of a football vs. baseball career for Murray here.

Murray hit .296/.398/.556 over 189 at-bats for Oklahoma’s baseball team in 2018. He tossed 42 touchdowns and threw for 4,361 yards for the football Sooners. He projects as a center fielder. Some football minds have suggested he may be too short to be an effective NFL quarterback.

He has a big decision to make. At the moment, though, he’s leaning toward the NFL.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.