After Sunday’s (red card assisted) beatdown to Sporting Kansas City by Real Salt Lake, it’s time to accept the facts if you haven’t already. This season is over. Of course, it’s not technically over. They could win nine of their last 12 (they probably need to if our math is right) and squeak into the playoffs. Eight games are at home. But they’ve lost three straight league games at home.
We’ll still be watching, but the situation is grim. And when teams are out of it, it’s time to start looking towards the next season. We’ve pointed out some ways they can look ahead, but it’s time to look at what they can do to gain value from assets they can move during the secondary transfer window. The window is now open and runs through August 4th, so let’s see who the team should look at selling.
Who are Untouchable?
In coming up with who I thought could/should be sold I thought it would be a good exercise to see who I absolutely wouldn’t trade away. The thing is, no one feels untouchable. There are probably rules against transferring out players who just signed (William Agada, Erik Thommy) and presumably some of these guys have no-trade clauses, but we wouldn’t be aware of that.
I think, if the price is right, anyone could be sold. So instead, let’s think of this as extremely unlikely to be sold. I’ll start with all three Young Money (U-22 Initiative) signings: Marinos Tzionis, Robert Voloder and Logan Ndenbe. All three players had transfer fees paid for them, so unless they are selling them into another league, an intra-league move seems very unlikely. On top of that, they all just arrived before the season and their upside is too great to move on this early barring a large international offer.
Outside of those three, anyone could leave, but there are a few I bet won’t. Baring large offers or just simply not seeing a place for them in the future, I’d hold on to all the emerging Homegrowns: John Pulskamp, Cam Duke, Felipe Hernandez and Kayden Pierre. They’ve all been playing more regularly, are cheap and contribute above their wages. If a team comes in and offers a boatload of General Allocation Money (GAM) or a big transfer fee from abroad, you probably need to consider taking it.
I also wouldn’t move a player like Remi Walter or Kortne Ford. Walter is a game-in, game-out starter and is guaranteed through 2023 with an option for 2024. Ford, who might not be eligible to be traded anyways because he’s suspended, is playing well above his $151,667 wage and will be competing for a starting job in 2023 (and the end of 2022), not to mention team options for 2023 and 2024.
Potential Trade Candidates
Again, anyone on this roster is available for the right price. But as the MLS season moves on, teams could be looking for moves to sure up holes in their roster, increase their depth or even make an impact down the stretch.
Trade Probability: 25%
Let’s start with something upsetting. Tim Melia is a future Sporting Legend. But his contract ends after this season, he’s 35-years-old (which isn’t actually that old for a keeper, but he’s the oldest player on the roster) and he has a young and promising backup behind him in John Pulskamp. A backup who just signed an extension through 2025 with an option for 2026 and has played well replacing Melia in recent weeks. Plus Kendall McIntosh seems like a quality veteran you can count on based on his USL Championship and MLS NEXT Pro play with SKC II.
Look at a team like Atlanta United. They lost Brad Guzan and backup Dylan Castanheira for the season. They are struggling but are an ambitious team always looking to make a run. Melia has been a ‘game day decision’ for the last two games, so he’s on the verge of being healthy. If the price is right, Sporting KC have to consider it (as gross as it would be to see Melia in the five-stripes).
I imagine he’ll probably get re-signed for at least another season and brought back to SKC, but you just never know. Father time is undefeated and while Melia has improved his play drastically since the beginning of the year, at some point it’s a business and you have to move on. Maybe they trade him, he finishes the season with Atlanta (or whoever) and then re-signs with KC in the offseason. That’d be something.
Trade Probability: 15%
First, I would much prefer Sporting just re-sign Salloi. Despite not having a real center forward next to him (when he’s not being forced to play that role) all season, he still has four goals and an assist despite dealing with some injuries and a suspension. If I’m Sporting, I re-sign him. But he’s been evasive on that subject all year long, which makes me think he’s open to leaving or planning to leave.
He was an MVP candidate on a very reasonable wage and he just turned 26 (happy belated birthday Daniel). He is on an expiring contract as well, so that probably dings his value, and he can sign a pre-contract overseas right now and leave for free after the season. But if a team wants to get an attacking piece and throw something Sporting’s way when they are going to potentially lose him for free anyways, they have to listen.
Trade Probability: 8%
PV loves Khiry Shelton. And how much value does a player who doesn’t score goals really have? Well, somehow when the 2022 salary data was release, I completely missed that Shelton was only listed at $350,000, down from $650,000 in 2021 (this has to be a weird MLSPA calculation mechanism because that’s a huge cut). That makes him a much more palatable budget charge for both KC or for a future team.
Maybe a change of scenery where he can just use his size and pace, and maybe play winger where he’s clearly better suited, to help another team down the stretch. Seeing him only on $350,000 though makes him a quality backup option for 2023 if they can’t move him. But if Alan Pulido gets hurt again and Shelton is an everyday starter, Vermes will probably lose his job over that (unless William Agada is just awesome).
[Did you all miss this too? How, with all the Shelton attention, has this wage issue not come up?!]
Trade Probability: 3%
Fontas is another player who is on an expiring deal and likely has no future at this club. Yet he was a contender for Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. His high salary and up and down 2022 play mean there are likely not going to be any buyers. However, if someone is desperate for a higher quality CB, it makes sense to move on and clear the way for Robert Voloder to play more minutes down the stretch.
Trade Probability: 1%
Trade Probability: 1%
I’m going to lump Roger and Graham together. First, they won’t get traded. Peter wouldn’t do that to them, unless, that’s what they wanted. They could both be in their last year as professional soccer players. It’s possible they want to go play for a contender and make a run. It likely wouldn’t result in a ton of GAM or other compensation but if they wanted to move SKC could get something for them. What it would do is give them something back and also clear space for younger players to play.
The PR hit and ticket sales that would be lost may not even be worth it though. Plus Graham Zusi has played every professional minute in a Kansas City uniform, it’s hard to imagine him not ending that way at this point.
International Roster Spot
Sure, this isn’t a person, but Sporting KC opened up an international roster spot when they agreed to mutually part ways with Nikola Vujnovic. If they don’t have another move for an incoming player, they can deal away the spot for the rest of the year which is worth about $175,000 in GAM most recently. These lose value though as the window closes if another team isn’t desperate.
Looking up and down the roster, there aren’t a lot of valuable assets that Kansas City should want to offload. Their most valuable players are the ones who are paid less, younger and contributing beyond their pay grade. Hopefully all those players have a future with the team and will play extensively down the stretch.
On the other hand, they are loaded with expensive and aging players who most teams probably can’t fit into their budget (or wouldn’t want to). Of the players they could realistically want to move and still have value, the odds seems pretty low.