Today is the final proprietary “draft from other peoples’ teams” mechanism in MLS’s offseason. From here on out, it’s free agency and trades for intra-league signings, for the most part.
Today’s event is nearly a carbon-copy of last week’s Re-Entry Draft, Stage One (in which NSC added Eric Miller to the squad). The difference? Today’s selections will negotiate new contracts with the teams that select them (almost invariably for less than they made last year), whereas last Tuesday’s picks were guaranteed at least their 2019 salary for the upcoming season. That makes this round more focused on guys who were more expensive last season, and whom teams want to negotiate lower salary numbers with.
It wouldn’t surprise if Nashville passed completely today, but here are a few potential intriguing picks. See the full list of available players here.
Seattle Sounders centerback Roman Torres
He’s old (34 early next season) and made a lot last year ($670k) for not a ton of minutes (just over 1200), but if a team can negotiate him to right near the TAM cutoff ($530k), one more year of a guy who’s a big name – and one of Panama’s all-time caps leaders – and can play multiple positions across the backline in a starting or depth role could be worth it. From an NSC perspective, he’s a Canaleros teammate of Aníbal Godoy, so there’s some chemistry built there playing for their country.
Orlando City centerback Shane O’Neill
OCSC’s defense was quietly better than it got credit for last year, and while O’Neill only got just over 900 minutes for the Lions, that could simply mean he’s slightly undervalued in the big picture. He made about $125k last year, and negotiating him below $100k seems like a pretty realistic possibility. He’s also only 26, in the prime of his career for the CB position.
Columbus Crew centerback Alex Crognale
A very similar profile to O’Neill: a 900-minute player for a defense that was better than it seemed from a raw numbers perspective when you dive into the xG. He’s also a year younger, and only made about $105k last year: negotiating his number down (also consider: no state income tax in Tennessee means more take-home pay, so NSC can sell guys on that aspect) to near the senior minimum could be a possibility.
San Jose Earthquakes centerback Jimmy Ockford
He was on a minimum contract last year, so he’d have gone last week if teams still rated him as an MLS-caliber player, but gotta go for the NSC fan emotional play here. Fans know and like the guy (I’d be shocked if Nashville picked him, unless the alternative is just passing completely on the rest of the talent in the draft and “why not.” Also I definitely added him mostly so I’d have a relevant picture).
Sporting Kansas City forward Krisztián Németh
In pure scoring terms, Nemeth had a really disappointing 2019, with only eight goals and two assists in nearly 1700 minutes. However, he produced 0.69 xG+xA per 96 minutes last season, and slightly undershot his xG numbers in conversion rate. In previous seasons, he’s assisted more than the xA numbers would expect (and in a whole new team, you’d expect that teammates’ conversion rates don’t carry over). He’s turning 31 in January – what up, birthday buddy? – but as a member of a front line that has few proven consistent scorers, he could be another piece to the puzzle in both depth and top-line scoring. The issue? He made nearly a million bucks last year, and the degree to which you can negotiate that down may not be enough to make his production worth it.
New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips
Somebody‘s going to take a swing on BWP, who had a down 2019 (0.523 xG+xA/96 in just over 1200 minutes), but is one of the most proven goal-scorers in league history. He turns 35 early next season, so it’d likely be a short-term rental, but the farther he’s willing to budge off his $1.2m salary from last season, the more attractive an option he is.
New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo
Agudelo hasn’t lived up to lofty expectations from early in his career (once upon a time he was the next big thing for the USMNT), but he’s still a reasonably productive and not-particularly expensive 27-year old. If his $575k can get right down to the TAM cutoff – or better yet, well below it – his .381 xG+xA/96 can blossom in the right system. It’s widely believed that LAFC has him in its sights, where he’d be a good fit with a wing-oriented (or “Carlos Vela-oriented”) offense that needs off-ball work from its striker.
Seattle Sounders fullback Saad Abdul-Salaam
If someone were to take Abdul-Salaam in the Re-Entry Draft, it’d likely have happened last week, since his senior-minimum salary has nowhere to be negotiated but up. He got 1200 minutes for a decent (not great) Sounders defense – one that obviously ended the year as MLS Champion – and is 28.
Just a few names to watch for NSC or other teams’ purposes. I’m betting plenty of guys not on this list are more attractive to some teams – perhaps including Nashville – for a variety of reasons.