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MLB Roundup 1/14: MLB is pulling out all the stops for Kyler Murray

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And the two stars in free agency may be closer to deals.

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Athletics and MLB are trying to convince Kyler Murray to stick with baseball

Monday is a big day in the world of sports, as it is the final day college football stars can declare for the NFL draft. Normally, it’s not a day we’d concern ourselves with, but of course 2019 is different thanks to Kyler Murray. The Heisman Trophy winner was also the ninth overall pick by the Athletics in last summer’s amateur baseball draft, and he received a $4.6 million signing bonus. Now, he’s deciding if he really wants to play baseball or if he wants to pursue football instead. For the last week or so, the general feeling has been that he’ll at least declare for the NFL draft, but the A’s and MLB are trying to convince him to just commit to baseball. According to reports, a group of Oakland executives as well as people from MLB’s marketing department — who knew MLB even had a marketing department? — headed to Texas to try and woo Murray on Sunday. There were initial reports that Murray was asking for at least $15 million guaranteed to stay with baseball, though later it was reported that no specific terms were discussed on either side.

Still, the big news out of this meeting was that MLB would allow Oakland to sign Murray to a major-league contract this offseason to try and convince him to stay. Upon this news first being shared, it seemed as though MLB was making an exception for a special case, which is an easy way to lead to massive problems down the road. However, these deals are technically legal as long as you can prove it wasn’t agreed to before a player was drafted. Generally speaking, that’s very hard to prove unless there are extenuating circumstances. Murray being a potential first round pick in the NFL counts as extenuating circumstances. I think MLB is fine doing what they are doing and allowing this. Murray is a big name and MLB needs some big names.

That being said, if I’m someone like Shohei Ohtani or even last summer’s number one overall pick Casey Mize, I’m wondering where my contract is. MLB is making the right move here, but in the process they accidentally admitted how much young talent is worth to their teams, and if the Players Union cared at all about amateur and minor-league talent they’d use this to change the strict draft rules. Of course, there’s no evidence whatsoever the union cares about anyone besides their most senior members. Fun times!

Favorites emerging for Harper and Machado?

This has been another slow-moving MLB offseason as we wait impatiently for two of the game’s biggest stars — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — to sign big deals with new teams. These are some of the most talented and youngest free agents we’ve seen or will see in some time, but the market hasn’t really exploded as we expected. The teams publicly in on either or both has been limited, but now we seem to be seeing some favorites for each. The Phillies originally were seen as more of a fit for Machado than Harper, but they met with the latter over the weekend and apparently became enamored with him and his wife. Now, they are apparently the “clear-cut” favorite to sign Harper away from their division rival Nationals. Obviously, these things are never done until they’re done and there’s a very real possibility this leak is coming from Harper’s camp to try and get other teams involved to panic. Still, the Phillies came into the winter ready to spend “stupid money” and Harper would be a hell of a way to do it.

With the Phillies possibly out on Manny Machado if they’re serious about Harper, and the Yankees apparently out as well after they signed Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMaheiu, the only team we publicly know is going after Machado is the White Sox. Chicago is not someone we are used to being connected to top-flight free agents, but they have a dirt-cheap team right now that is on the rise, and signing a 26-year-old superstar is a hell of a way to compliment that. According to reports, they’ve made an eight-year offer to the former Orioles star. Cleveland is still in the driver’s seat in that division, but they’ve gotten worse this offseason and don’t seem very intent on doing much to improve their roster. That’s closing to gap in the AL Central, and with Machado in tow the White Sox (as well as the Twins) would only be a couple of breaks away from legitimately contending for that division title. This is the time for the White Sox to strike.