On Friday, Columbus Crew SC forwards Justin Meram and Ola Kamara have reportedly asked to be traded. According to Sam Stejskal the Crew are shopping both players but the asking price is said to be high.
Sources: Justin Meram and Ola Kamara have both asked to be moved by Columbus this winter. Crew SC are shopping both, but the asking prices are high: https://t.co/jMuC8mowcb— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) January 5, 2018
Sporting Kansas City are said to be looking to add a couple more Designated Players this offseason but stunningly, Kamara and Meram wouldn’t even fall into that category despite the sizable cost it would take to acquire them. According to the 2017 MLS Salary data Kamara made a guaranteed compensation of $482,500 (slightly above last years salary max but easily bought down) and Meram made $328,750.
First off, Columbus is getting a ton of production for that kind of pay, which is likely why their selling price will be high. In 2017 both players had career years. They both appeared in all 34 regular season games and Meram had 32 starts with Kamara getting 33.
From his center forward role, Kamara put in 18 goals and added three assists in 2,867 minutes played. This was his second full season with the Crew and actually showed a drop off in goals per 90 from 2016 when he took over for Kei Kamara after he departed via trade to the New England Revolution. In 2016 his goals per 90 were 0.77 and in 2017 it was 0.56. For comparison, across vastly less minutes (1010 vs 2867), Diego Rubio had a goals per 90 of 0.53.
From his winger role Meram had the best year of his life. He scored 13 goals and added seven assists over 2,588 minutes. For Sporting KC last season, the leading goal scorer was Gerso Fernandes with just eight goals. Rubio had six in limited play and Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer both had five (but are no longer with the team).
It seems unlikely Justin Meram will find the back of the net 13 times again but he had five goals in 2016, six in 2015 and eight in 2014. He also had 13, five and four assists respectively across all those seasons.
Those numbers represent quite the improvement over the wing play for SKC in 2017, even including current DP Gerso. If SKC had Meram and Kamara, that would allow incredible depth as players like Rubio, Daniel Salloi and the newly acquired Khiry Shelton could come off the bench.
As for the asking price, no one has stated what it is other than “high.” Luckily for Sporting KC, they are flush with Targeted and General Allocation Money from the trades of Dwyer and Feilhaber as well as all the new TAM the league has injected over the last few years. On Twitter, Mike McGrew has estimated they could have north of $6.3 million laying around before they’ve paid down salaries of non-DPs above the max salary threshold.
GammaTammaTron2000 update: $6.36m in estimated combined pre-roster compliance GAM/TAM for SKC. pic.twitter.com/b7exjBNjBM— Mike McGrew (@Zavagtastic) January 4, 2018
Their core group of players aren’t getting any younger. If Sporting KC are really planning to go all in on 2018, these would be moves worth making. As for how much they’ll cost, we have some numbers to work from. Dom Dwyer, a player who is still only 27-years-old (to Kamara’s 28) was sold for what most people agree is far too much money at a combined $1.6 million in TAM and GAM. Darlington Nagbe was traded for a minimum of $1.05 million (with a bunch of unreachable incentives attached to get to $1.65 million). He’s also 27.
On the other end of the spectrum were trades for players like Feilhaber ($400,000), Kevin Molino ($650,000) and Dax McCarty ($400,000). Molino is 27, McCarty is 30 and Benny will be 33 by the start of the season. Meram is 29 for comparison.
Columbus are not in a situation where they need to trade two of their stars so Sporting Kansas City, or any other interested team, would have to make it worth their while to make this deal. That likely means to get both players (which seems unlikely they’d actually go to the same club) it will definitely be north of the $1.6 million mark since the Dwyer and Nagbe trades have raised the bar. But for my money, neither is worth that alone. Especially when Rubio’s numbers compare so favorably to Kamara’s (albeit over a much shorter time frame).
Some additional pros to getting Meram and Kamara is they are familiar with the league. SKC could go make a big splash outside the league but you just never know if those players will figure it out in MLS. Kamara and Meram have proved they can play in this league.
Kamara also has additional complications as he wants a new deal, which he honestly deserves based on his production. So while Meram will definitely not take a DP slot, any deal to get Kamara would likely mean he gets a new contract and thus becomes a DP. The Crew also had foreign clubs making multiple offers during the summer transfer window and Kamara indicated he would “explore moves away from MLS after the conclusion of the current season.”
So even though these moves seem unlikely, it’s exactly the kind of thing Sporting KC have been stashing allocation money for.