Rumors are flying regarding Real Salt Lake’s offseason. I want to give some perspective to what is happening and what I expect will happen in the coming days and months.
Saturday is the first big deadline as the team will choose whether to exercise the option on each contract. MLS contracts are not guaranteed more than a year at a time, so every MLS team has the option to simply “decline the option” on any player and effectively opt out of his contract.
Players under contract for next season have a specific dollar value that the team will choose to accept or decline. Those not under contract can be “accepted” by being given an offer of approximately the same salary as last season or one slightly higher (depending on age and years of experience in the league).
Any player meeting specific experience criteria (most RSL players you know fit this list) will be eligible for the re-entry draft. This is an option for any other team to accept waived players at the same price.
If no team selects a waived player, then Salt Lake can again negotiate with him at a lower contract figure. Players that do not agree to a new contract may enter the second stage, where their rights can be taken by another team for negotiation.
What Saturday Means
Even if Salt Lake accepts a player’s option, that doesn’t mean the player will be back. It really just means Salt Lake thinks the player has value at his current salary cap figure. This preserves the option to sell the player outside the US or trade the player within MLS.
Who is in Jeopardy Saturday?
I expect that Justin Braun will be let go through Saturday’s announcement. Beyond that, I’m not positive about any player. However, these players could potentially have their options declined:
- Javier Morales
- Jamison Olave
- Paulo Jr.
- Ned Grabavoy
- Chris Wingert
- Tony Beltran
These are the six players I see on Salt Lake’s roster that could potentially be viewed as overpaid and therefore untradeable. If I were Garth Lagerwey, I wouldn’t decline options on most of these players, but I think they are the ones at risk.
Even if these six have their options declined, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be back. Salt Lake may just be trying to negotiate down the contracts of any of these six through this move.
Knowing the Answers
For Paulo, Wingert, Grabavoy, and Beltran, Saturday is decision day. Each of these role players will be with Salt Lake next season if his option is picked up. Each may be back if the option is declined as well, but having the contract figure accepted will make his return a certainty.
Morales and Olave are trickier. Even if these two have their options exercised, I could see either having trade value to a different MLS team or sales value to a non-MLS side.
With that said, here is my list of players and their likelihood to be back at the start of training camp next year. I have included explanations as needed.
- Justin Braun – The young man has potential, but he isn’t a good fit for Salt Lake’s system. Add to that a six-figure salary, and he’s just too expensive to train up.
- Jamison Olave – He was injured most of the season and has two much younger and cheaper options behind him. Besides, he surely has trade value to a big market or sales value to a South American side.
- Kyle Reynish – The backup goalkeeper is expensive and had a rough season. Plus, Salt Lake has Lalo Fernandez behind him ready to go.
- Javier Morales – I explained this one just after the season ended.
- Paulo Jr. – He’s young and fast, but he is terribly inconsistent. His work ethic is improving but he’s still not a Jason Kreis-type. I’m not sure he’ll develop, but I don’t know what Garth will decide.
- Chris Wingert AND Tony Beltran – Both are relatively expensive for outside backs, but each is a valuable part of the side. I expect at least one will stay, though I could see both coming back.
Almost Positive He’s Staying
- Alvaro Saborio – He is definitely expensive, but he’s also the best striker RSL has ever had. Plus, he is coming off the best season of his career. Unless Salt Lake wants to completely start over, Sabo will be back.
- Fabian Espindola – Salt Lake needs to get faster up top, but the Argentine attacker is young and coming off two stellar seasons. If he does leave, it will be through trade. However, I doubt it will happen.
- Kyle Beckerman – I would be shocked if the RSL captain leaves after this season. He’s an integral part of the side. I left him here because of his age and his discipline problems during the last two seasons, however, I can’t imagine Salt Lake parting with him.
- Kenny Mansally – He’s young, cheap, and plays a position that Salt Lake struggles to find players at. I can’t imagine him leaving.
- Nat Borchers – Nat’s age is the only question mark, but I expect he’ll be back as well.
- Luis Gil – He’ll be a big cap hit next season, but he continues to be a massively improving young talent. Unless he decides to go to Europe, he’ll be back.
- Will Johnson – Young and productive. He’ll be back.
- Nick Rimando – See 2009 and 2012 playoffs.
The following are young and really inexpensive under the cap. Each will be back:
- Chris Schuler
- Kwame Watson-Siriboe
- Enzo Martinez
- Sebastien Velasquez
- Jonny Steele
- Lalo Fernandez
- Yordany Alvarez
- Emiliano Bonfigli
- David Viana