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Should Sporting KC Trade for Red Bulls Defender Kemar Lawrence?

The short answer is NO, but he’s a transformational defender, so it’s worth talking about.

New York Red Bulls v Sporting Kansas City: Final - 2017 U.S. Open Cup
Here Espinoza takes out his mythical future teammate.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Monday, Ives Galarcep reported that New York Red Bulls left back and perennial Defender of the Year candidate, Kemar Lawrence asked for a trade. Inevitably when news like this breaks, teams (but probably mostly fans and pundits) ask themselves, ‘would that guy fit on our team?’

Sporting Kansas City fans (and this pundit) are no different. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of such a move.

Lawrence is a Star

Kemar is consistently a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, even if fullbacks never win the award. At the end of the 2018 season, he signed a contract that made him the Red Bulls highest paid defender (which was later eclipsed by both Aaron Long and Tim Parker). He was also one of the highest paid fullbacks in the league — though several new contracts has his 2019 wages of $382,749.96 feeling awfully affordable.

Outside of just pay, he really lives up to that wage. In his five seasons in MLS he averages 23.6 appearances, including 2019 when he was dealing with some injuries (he had 22 appearances — 19 starts last year). He’s known more for his defense than offense (which is something SKC could use) but he’s still added five goals and 10 assists in MLS play.

Sporting Already Have a Starting Left Back

This is the big roadblock. If Lawrence demanded a trade before last summer when Luis Martins was added, I’d say go make the trade right now. Martins was signed for $240,000.00 and he is under contract through 2021 with an option for 2022. Lawrence is also signed to the same length of contract, but his sticking point is he wants a raise. SKC haven’t been shy to pay handsomely for defenders and they may be inclined to give a raise if they could swing a deal.

There would be no need for two highly paid left backs to be on the same roster though. The only way a deal works is if Martins is sent to the Red Bulls as a part of a trade. Since we are playing fantasy General Manager, it could look something like this:

Sporting KC get:

  • Kemar Lawrence - LB

NY Red Bulls get:

  • Luis Martins - LB
  • International Roster Spot
  • $250,000 in Allocation Money

New York would be getting back a cheaper (and frankly less talented player), the international roster spot to put him in (though Lawrence is Jamaican, he doesn’t take up an international slot) and some allocation money (targeted or general). It might not be enough and NY is under no pressure to make such a trade. But Sporting KC were kind of in the same boat last season with Ike Opara and they made a move for locker room cohesion.

I’d be willing to up the allocation money if necessary. How much is too much? $500,000? $600,000?

Will this Move Happen?

As the sub-headline says, of course not. But then again, stranger things have happened. Martins hasn’t had time to impress so his value is a bit low. That said, Lawrence’s value has likely dipped slightly too as he dealt with the aforementioned injuries in 2019.

The Red Bulls, as outlined by Ives, have a young, domestic LB waiting in the wings in Kyle Duncan. He makes just $70,250.04. So while Kemar likely won’t come to KC (they have no needs for Martins back in this deal) he could easily be gone as New York is going to have lots of changes this offseason. Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips are already gone. Aaron long could be in Europe by January.

But Kansas City, don’t need two left backs and NY don’t need KC’s left back. If only this trade demand happened before last summer. END fantasy GM mode. Return to your regularly schedule Tuesday activities.