Next on the block?
So tomorrow by 5 PM all teams in Major League Soccer must submit a final list of all available rostered players, not to be altered until after MLS Cup. In other words, the MLS trade deadline is upon us, and I'm here to pontificate on what the New England Revolution may or may not do in the next 17 hours or so.
First of all, a little primer on the rules. After 5 tomorrow, there will be no trades. There will be no new signings. Any players listed as inactive, even those on the disabled list, may not be reactivated. I'm not even dead sure you can release a guy. Thursday, September 15th at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time marks the point where rosters are locked and sealed.
So, with that in mind, let's begin.
I'm going to kick it off with my most pressing concern: Shalrie Joseph. The captain is the engine of the midfield, the most potent (statistically) option in attack, and the heart and soul of this squad. It is generally accepted in almost all MLS circles that he is one of the best, if not the best, holding midfielder in the league and has been for some time. In a word, a player like him is "irreplaceable."
Except he's also out of a contract at the end of the season. And he makes a guaranteed $500,000 on his current deal, which is not a Designated Player contract, by the way. And we all know that the precedent set by Kraft Soccer and the Revolution organization is not to pay anyone what the player feels he deserves. Especially when that player is 33.
"But Steve!" you must be whining. "He's the club's top goalscorer! And the captain! No one is more devoted to this team and has such a fan rapport, the front office must know that keeping him is a top priority!"
To you, I say: "I hope so." Because I agree wholeheartedly. Plus, there is some precedent for this, I suppose. Shalrie (along with Taylor Twellman) is one of the only players for whom the organization has shown any propensity to fork up the cash. Rightfully so, I might add; without him this team would be firmly situated in dead last, looking up at Toronto FC with envy. I shudder at the thought.
The problem is that Shalrie was much younger the last few times he re-upped with the team. At 33 and still commanding a large chunk of change, I can totally see this as the end of the road for him in Foxboro. Especially after watching this organization let guys like Jeff Larentowicz, Andy Dorman and Pat Noonan go, seemingly over what really amounts to financial quibbles.
If that's the case, it would make perfect sense for the Revs to try and move him tomorrow. Similar to an MLB non-contender trading away its best player to a playoff team looking to rent the guy for the postseason in exchange for cash and prospects, unloading Joseph and the burden of trying to negotiate a new deal might make good business sense at least. Let's take a quick look at where he could land, since I seem to love gutting myself slowly with words.
First of all, the top MLS Cup contenders this season are all Western Conference teams, and they're all set in the middle. LA's midfield is crowded, RSL has Beckerman, Colorado has Mastroeni, Dallas has Hernandez, and Seattle has Alonso. Other than that, no one really has a premier holding mid, and if you look at the last few MLS Cup winners, it's seeming more and more as though that might be the key ingredient.
Then you have the dark horses, the fringe teams that need to get over the hump to make a splash in the playoffs, and these teams without notable holding midfielders will be the ones in the market. Chivas USA, Portland, Columbus, Kansas City, Philadelphia; these teams lack that kind of talent in front of the back four. Not that they lack midfield talent overall - just that Shalrie would be an immediate upgrade.
Of course we'd have to examine which teams would be able to offer the most value, but frankly that would make this seem too immediate and inevitable and subsequently drain my will to live. Suffice to say that the confidence level I have in the front office identifying the best value (if, in truth, there can be any real value in losing that caliber of player) is pretty low.
Other than that, no names really jump out as movable parts as the window draws to a close. The thing is, for the Revs, the season is essentially over. Playoffs are still mathematically possible, but realistically, that's not even odds most gambling addicts would play. Throwing out cash and blockbuster trades to arm up for a playoff push would be a waste of money, and likely would saddle the team with burdensome contracts that would interfere with what clearly needs to be a big winter for rebuilding.
On the other hand, besides Joseph, there are no names on this roster now that would be both tantalizing to other teams and also represent a chance to recoup great value. The very best New England has (again, apart from the captain) are locked up for at least another year, if not longer. Guys like Reis, Feilhaber, Zerka, Lekic, Soares, Barnes, Tierney - they'll be here for a long time yet. So the only trades the team would realistically be doing would involve perennial bench-warmers or guys who haven't even gotten a shot yet this year. Nobody is going to want to bother with a deal like that at this point, not even to gather up playoff depth.
So, to recap, the Revs won't be gearing up for a playoff push, and the only value bargaining chip they possess is Shalrie Joseph, who by all indications (or, actually, by a lack of indications) will likely be gone this winter anyway, so trading him may actually make sense even if it shatters the team and fan base.
Happy trade deadline, friends!
Should Shalrie be on the trading block? Any players you think the Revs should go after? Want to propose some mock trades and be ridiculed mercilessly by the person least qualified to criticize you (aka me)? Leave your comments below!