Draft or trade? That is the question for RSL at MLS SuperDraft
For a team such as Real Salt Lake loaded with experienced veterans who take up most of the salary budget and make it hard for rookies to make an impact a low pick in a draft whose talent "drops off pretty seriously" might not be worth much.
Unless, of course, it's dealt for something else.
Which is why general manager Garth Lagerwey hinted strongly that RSL might trade one or both of its picks in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft that takes place Thursday in Baltimore. The team has the 14th of 18 picks in the first round, and the 52nd overall pick, in the third and final round.
"I don't know that we are going to take on another salary in this draft," he said.
It's hard to say whether Lagerwey is telling the truth or attempting a diversion to somehow benefit his true intentions obfuscation is always the pre-draft coin of the realm but his stated position certainly makes sense.
Already packed with veterans who make up one of the best teams in the league, RSL spent the offseason signing three players to new long-term contracts and adding midfielder Arturo Alvarez, while still negotiating with defender Nat Borchers and goalkeeper Nick Rimando on extensions of their own.
That puts the team under some salary cap pressure, even though it also lost forward Robbie Findley and defender David Horst modestly paid, both with individual salaries rising more from last year than the salary budget, which will be $2.67 million this year.
What's more, the team philosophically assumes most rookies "won't contribute at all" until two or three years down the road, especially those who still would be available so deep in the draft. (The team took the same approach last year, yet wound up landing midfielder Collen Warner and defender Chris Schuler, who arrived with the 15th and 39th picks and emerged as two of the team's most promising young standouts.)
So it might make sense for RSL to deal its pick for future picks or allocation money that would give it greater flexibility within its salary budget. There figure to be plenty of potential trade partners, too, with two new expansion teams in the league the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers and several others similarly desperate for talent amid major rebuilding projects, such as Columbus, Chivas USA and D.C. United.
Of course, RSL still could draft a player and not take on an additional salary, if its draftee is one of the nine players whose league-paid salaries won't count against teams' salary budgets as part of the "Generation Adidas" developmental program.
Several online mock drafts suggest RSL will do just that, landing a player such as forward Corey Hertzog, of Penn State, or midfielder Michael Nanchoff, of Akron.
"If there's a player there that we absolutely love, then we'll take him and we'll figure out the cap later," Lagerwey said. "We have to weigh â¦ do we take another youngster and understand that that may put a veteran's job in jeopardy from a salary-cap perspective, or do we maybe look at moves that might help us keep our core together? That's kind of the philosophical issue we have to resolve" before the draft.
P Thursday, 10 a.m.
TV • ESPN2
RSL in the MLS SuperDraft
• Forward Darlington Nagbe and midfielder Perry Kitchen teammates on the Akron Zips team that won the NCAA men's soccer championship are widely expected to become the first two picks of the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday.
• The expansion Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers hold those top two picks, and the Zips could have as many as six players taken in the 18-pick first round.
• RSL holds the No. 14 pick in the first round, and the No. 52 pick in the third and final round. The team has no particular needs, and general manager Garth Lagerwey said it will seek the "best player on the board" if it does not trade its picks. The draft has been shortened from four rounds to three this year, with the fourth round having effectively become the first round of the later supplemental draft.