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Kyler Murray chooses football

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Before he was the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner as the quarterback of the Oklahoma Sooners, Kyler Murray was selected by the Athletics in the 2018 draft.

For a time it appeared as if he’d choose baseball but his outstanding season for the Sooners seemed to change his mind on the matter. Last month he declared for the NFL draft, with the knowledge that doing so did not yet foreclose him from playing baseball. Meanwhile there were reports that the Athletics were considering giving Murray a major league deal in order to entice him to give up football and make baseball his full time gig.

All that seems to be over now, as Murray himself tweeted this a few moments ago:

An interesting question presents itself here: did the A’s lose Murray because of baseball’s cap on draft pick bonuses? And did baseball’s current state of labor relations play into the decision as well?

There’s a more or less hard cap on draftee bonuses now, prescribed by the league, and it’s painful for any team which seeks to exceed them. Those slots had the A’s giving Murray a $4.66 million signing bonus. There was a time when the A’s could’ve paid Murray any amount they wanted. That is, if they wanted him badly enough. As it was, their very act of trying to negotiate with Murray again in recent weeks required them to get special sign-off from the league and became a news story in and of itself. If the gambit were to be successful, the A’s would’ve had to keep Murray on their 40-man roster for his entire minor league career and potentially lose him to free agency earlier. Which is to say that (a) the A’s were mostly barred from paying Murray enough to lure him away from football; (b) if they wanted to exceed that bar it required a lot of doing; and (c) if they wanted to do that, there were factors pushing back against them doing so.

Meanwhile, the state of labor relations is such that the old calculus that used to apply to a two-sport star may not apply anymore. In the past, a guy like Murray would think “I could get paid more in the short term and have a short, possibly injury-filled football career or I could get paid more in the long run and have a longer, more healthy baseball career.” Well, when even two of the top free agents to ever hit the market are unemployed on February 11, that calculus is not the same as it used to be. Maybe Murray never gets paid to play baseball? His signing bonus was capped, prospects’ service time is routinely manipulated and free agency is far less appealing than it used to be. Maybe that makes the NFL that much more appealing.

At this point I suppose it’s theoretically possible that Murray could attend this month’s NFL combine and go through the draft, only to be disappointed in where he is selected. If that happens, I suppose it’s also possible for the A’s leave the door open for him to come back to baseball. This sort of unequivocal statement from Murray, however, makes that seem like an unlikely scenario. He’s going for an NFL career and, at the very least, is making it publicly clear that baseball is not on his mind. Perhaps that’s partially aimed at allying the fears of NFL teams regarding his commitment, but I’d wager it’s more about his actual desires.

The question for baseball is: did he jump for the NFL, or was he pushed?

 

 

Giants nearing deal with Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin
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The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.

Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.

The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.

In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.