It was an eventful week for the Boys in Gold not just because of players added in the SuperDraft, but also because of some departures, as well. Midfielder Derrick Jones and defender Miguel Nazarit are out the door under different circumstances. Jones was traded to Houston Dynamo within the league, whereas Nazarit was sent on loan to Independiente Santa Fe in his native Colombia.
What do the departures need for Nashville SC?
Derrick Jones traded to Houston
This one certainly came as a surprise, but given how the 2020 season played out, it makes a little more sense in hindsight. Jones isn’t a natural skillset fit for a holding midfield spot, and not a natural athletic fit for a more advanced role up the pitch. He’s performed well when shoehorned into roles that don’t fit him. But there’s a ceiling when that has to be the case. The role that Nashville initially signed him in – one of the “2” in the 4-2-3-1 formation – wasn’t for him, and it was time to move on.
A simple matter of better team health in 2021 would help NSC overcome the loss on the field, and a less-compressed schedule may facilitate that. Tah Brian Anunga and Matt LaGrassa filled in as depth behind Aníbal Godoy and Dax McCarty in central midfield, and a young player can fill in. At striker and wing, the addition of Jhonder Cádiz and (soon) Rodrigo Piñeiro add more numbers to begin with, while one can assume or at least hope David Accam, Abu Danladi, Dom Badji, Randall Leal, Hany Mukhtar, and Daniel Ríos have a healthier year with the less-condensed calendar and no global pandemic.
On the business side of things, Nashville got $250,000 in GAM in exchange for Jones. Less than two years after sending $175,000 to Philadelphia Union for him, that’s a 43% appreciation of the asset – plus the asset is a human being who made 34 appearances in the time he was with the club. To get that sort of profit despite finding out in the process that the player wasn’t a system fit… that’s solid business. There’s even a possibility (likelihood) that Houston was the best-possible trade partner for maximizing profit, given Jones’s existing relationship with head coach Tab Ramos.
Miguel Nazarit to Independiente Santa Fe
From an on-field perspective, this loan move was even more obvious was mildly surprised that Nazarit was even on a multi-year contract – and thus slated to return – in the first place.
He didn’t see the field in 2020, and with the development of last year’s top SuperDraft pick Jack Maher into a contributor, it was going to be nearly as difficult to sniff playing time this season, too. Dave Romney was an Ironman and Walker Zimmerman not far from it last season, while Jalil Anibaba was the top backup. All three return with Maher. Should Eric Miller come to an agreement with the team, he can also fill in at centerback (likely over Nazarit for playing time). The length of Nazarit’s contract with NSC is unknown, but if this loan lasts through the remainder of its length, Nashville lets him get a head start on the next phase of his career. If it doesn’t, he’s more likely to get minutes in Colombia this year, honing his game for potential contributions in Nashville during the 2022 season.
From a business perspective, the move also makes sense. It opens one valuable international roster slot for this season. It also provides roster space more generally, giving NSC the ability to fill its 30-man roster with guys more likely to see meaningful playing time. The financials aren’t hugely impactful – the TAM used to sign him was a lump sum for the transfer fee, so while he was making at least the senior minimum, the monetary hit to the salary budget isn’t that big. The move probably does raise some questions about past business: using Targeted Allocation Money on a player who never saw the field was a waste of resources at the time (in hindsight) and unless the future brings some very positive surprises, it will go down as a miss.
Where the roster stands
Nashville currently has 23 players under contract, is negotiating with Miller, and has five unsigned college draft picks.
If all five picks sign – and the early expectation is that they don’t join until after the spring NCAA season – and Miller re-signs, that puts the club at 29 players. Because of the murky nature of the rookies’ eligibility to join, the expectation is that there will be an extra roster slot or two as long as it goes to a SuperDraft pick. Big-picture, Nashville most likely has at least a couple roster slots open, even in the scenario where every player signs.
With Piñeiro arriving in the United States today, and likely going through his medical and being announced by the end of the week, there may still only be one or so roster slots remaining. Until Leal and/or Mukhtar gets a green card (also expected before the season), Piñeiroks signing will put Nashville one international slot over the limit – and if Syracuse CB Sondre Norheim signs prior to the Summer Window, possibly two.
All that should work out fairly smoothly, though. We’re in a phase of the year where the roster is most-murky, with clarity coming before a ball is kicked. Some of that clarity was provided with the departures of Jones and Nazarit.