The Major League Soccer offseason is about to kick into high gear. St. Louis City SC made five picks, including not selecting any Sporting Kansas City players, on Friday night. KC native Nicholas Gioacchini was the first pick followed by a list of relatively inexperienced and younger guys.
With that out of the way, the deadline to trigger 2023 contract options and make bonafide offers looms on Monday, November 14th. With the draft over, many moves could be imminent because there is really no reason to hold things close to your vest at this point.
Which brings us to an interesting rumor that came out on the day of the draft. Chris Smith of 90min.com is reporting that “Nicolas Isimat-Mirin in new SKC talks but attracting attention from ‘leading’ MLS clubs.”
First, let’s understand this situation. Isi is one of several players that has an option for 2023 built into his contract. All KC have to do is trigger that option and he’s a member of the team for 2023 at whatever salary was agreed to in his original deal. In 2022 he made $1,028,124 in guaranteed compensation. His 2023 number is likely at least that or potentially includes a small raise if past trends are any indication.
However, this reporting opens up new possibilities as Chris says Isimat-Mirin “remains in talks with Sporting Kansas City over a new contract.” Let’s break down each of the options.
Option 1: Just Pickup Isi’s Contract Option
This doesn’t sound like what is happening based on the reporting, but you never know how credible reporting is. There is always the possibility that an agent is feeding a story to a reporter for some means. The same could be true of a team, maybe Sporting KC have ulterior motives, like trying to drive up a players value in a trade (more on that in a moment).
Option 2: SKC Declined his Option
If he’s trying to come to a new contract, presumably Sporting KC either declined his option (or have indicated this is their plan) and are trying to offer him a new deal, potentially at less money but for more years. Going into the offseason, many of us at The Blue Testament made the case that Isimat-Mirin and Andreu Fontas weren’t he answer at center back and expected the team to move on from one or both of them.
If Sporting KC have a target they think can replace Isi, keeping him around on a discount isn’t the worst idea for CB competition, but I always felt it was unlikely they’d pay him over $1 million a season again with the limitations of the MLS salary budget. Remember, Ilie was a cap casualty last season.
Option 3: SKC Trigger his Option and Trade Him
One interesting aspect of this really long window between when Kansas City’s season ended and the deadline to pick up contract options and extend bonafide offers is that it gives the team more time to work out their roster build. It also was a way to hide their cards from St. Louis City SC and not have to show that Sporting may have been interested in keeping certain players before the expansion draft.
If there really is “attention” coming from multiple MLS clubs for the services of Isimat-Mirin, what is to stop SKC from going ahead and picking up his option and trading him? His contract being north of $1m and him requiring an international slot (unless green card progress has been made) makes him an asset that’s not worth as much, but even flipping him for a smaller sum of General Allocation Money (GAM) would be a win for KC if he’s not in their plans anyways.
Option 4: Don’t Trigger his Option but Trade Him
Stick with me, MLS has weird rules.
This one makes a ton of sense to me for one large reason. If Sporting Kansas City just decline Isimat-Mirin’s contract option, he doesn’t become a free agent for anyone to sign. Instead, he would head through the Re-Entry Process. Stage 1 of that process teams can just pick up his option for 2023. Stage 2 they can negotiate a “genuine offer” (aka less money) with the player.
But if Isi goes through the Re-Entry process, he can’t choose where he goes. Team’s pick in reverse order to where they finished in 2022, so the bad teams have first dibs. If he wants to control his destination within MLS then, Isi can have his contract declined and then opt out of the draft. Here are the rules:
Players may only opt out of Re-Entry Stage 1 or 2 by providing written notice to the League prior to the relevant Re-Entry Draft blackout period.
- If a player opts out, his current Club will:
- Retain a Right of First Refusal for the player; and
- Be required to obtain the player’s consent before trading the player.
In this situation, Sporting would retain his rights of first refusal and can trade him to a new team (of his choosing). Sporting will probably get less (but it’s better than nothing) and the new team can negotiate his new contract without having to commit $1m in salary to him.
Option 5: Leave MLS
Finally, there is always the chance that Sporting decline Isi’s option, can’t reach a new deal with him or find a willing trade partner. Then he opts out of the Re-Entry Draft and SKC will own his MLS rights but he just heads overseas (potentially to never return to MLS).
This is sort of what happened with Felipe Gutierrez (though they actually drafted their own player in Stage 2). Sporting wanted to bring him back on a non-Designated Player deal but he didn’t take it. He returned to Chile for a bit before arriving back in MLS this summer with the Colorado Rapids. SKC owned his rights and received $50,000 in GAM from Colorado for him. Peak MLS.
Whatever the conclusion of this saga is, we’ll know by Monday what direction this story is moving in. Then again, we could be a ways away from it being resolved as the Re-Entry Draft is spread out all the way to the 22nd depending on the stages.