If you blinked, you might have missed it. After a bamboozling frenzy of activity and a brief Twitter explosion, eleven MLS players had their rights claimed by teams and stage two of the inaugural Re-Entry Draft drew to its conclusion on Wednesday.
Some of the expected names were called (Juan Pablo Angel) and there were some very surprising snubs (Guillermo Barros Schelotto), but at the end of the day what surprised me most was that the only team that didn’t pass in the second round was the Revolution.
They weren’t the only team to pick twice (through trades LA acquired the fifth pick from Houston in addition to their late-round pick) but for some reason I had a sneaking feeling that the Revs would either make one safe and unexciting pick and call it a day or abstain from making any selections at all. Instead, they made what will probably be seen as an astute pick in defender Ryan Cochrane and took a gamble on Brazilian midfielder Fred.
The selection of Fred in particular marks an element of risk that is uncharacteristic of the New England FO. Apart from not knowing whether or not he’ll even re-sign with MLS, Fred is a 31-year old attacking player known for shirking any sort of defensive duty, and he comes with a heavy price tag. Last season, Fred was guaranteed $282,000 ($250,000 base salary), a number the Revs would likely be unwilling to even approach in a new contract offer.
It would require a mystic to sift through all of the ambiguity and vagaries of what constitutes a "bona fide offer" or "genuine offer," but it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume the amount is somehow based on the previous year’s compensation. Last season Fred managed four goals and an assist in twenty-four starts. Conversely, Sainey Nyassi scored three goals and provided two assists for roughly 25% of the price. So if a "genuine offer" has to be a significant percentage of Fred’s last contract amount, is it really worth it to the Revs?
What is most worrying is that Fred might bypass New England entirely and move to a different league. There have been whisperings of interest from South America, and he was a hero at Melbourne in the A-League. Being out of contract, Fred has total control over his future in that regard and Mike Burns didn’t make any reassuring comments post-Draft.
On the other hand, Fred is a versatile winger with verve and attacking flair who was a major piece of DC United’s Supporters’ Shield-winning 2007 side. If the Revolution can reach some sort of accord with him he undoubtedly makes the team better. And if not, hopefully they can trade his rights for more immediate value.
Ryan Cochrane is interesting and probably essential thanks to Cory Gibbs’ departure to Chicago. Cochrane has been hurt and made few appearances in the last two seasons, but he was a major part of the Dynamo teams that beat the Revs in the ’06 and ’07 MLS Cup Finals. The defense was already shoddy and shallow before Gibbs moved on, so the selection makes perfect sense from a pure needs standpoint.
What is unsettling about Cochrane is that he hasn’t played anything resembling a full season since 2008. Especially after a season of injury crises and matches where coach Nicol couldn’t even name a full eighteen-man squad, bringing in more fragility might be a step in the wrong direction.
There is also the matter of salary. Cochrane earned $100,000 last season, which is too much in my opinion. The number is logical: he’s 27, a long-time MLS veteran, and a champion. That said, his inconsistent availability in the previous two seasons and the sparing manner in which he was utilized in 2010 by the Dynamo is far from encouraging, and should give the Revs every reason to cut his contract to five figures.
Cochrane could be compared to a younger Cory Gibbs, albeit without the national team experience. Then again, no one would ever argue that Gibbs is the same player now that he was when he was getting USA call-ups, so perhaps the Revs have basically traded Gibbs for a younger, cheaper version of the same player.
Overall, considering what was available and the fact that they are free to now negotiate with any unselected players free of strings and requirements for "bona fide offers," the Revs did a pretty good job in the draft. If signed, Cochrane adds much-needed depth and experience to the back line while Fred could be a welcome spark in the attack or an interesting bargaining chip going forward.
What’s disquieting is that the Revs appear to have gone into stage two totally blind. By all accounts, Gibbs’ deal with the Fire was all but finished by the time the selection was made, and that wasn’t the only such move that was pre-negotiated. If New England is unable to agree to terms with Cochrane and Fred leaves MLS, the Revs will be looking awfully ridiculous.
The apparent lack of foresight reminds me of the aftermath of the expansion draft. It was disappointing to see the Revs not dealing in the flurry of trade activity that followed the draft, especially considering some solid names were bandied about. Of course, one could argue that the Revs don’t have any trade bait or leverage they could afford to part with, but that’s certainly not an uplifting thought. It’s still early in the offseason but the general lack of activity in Foxboro has me very perturbed.
Hopefully that will change very soon, starting with inked contracts for Cochrane and Fred.