Happy MLS Players Union semiannual salary survey day! Considering how badly it got worked over in the last CBA negotiations, this remains pretty much the most impactful thing the union does. And I for one am grateful.
First things first: my oddly-popular spreadsheet has been updated with the latest figures, which you can check out here.
One thing to note about it is that the information is deeply incomplete. Not only can I really only guess at the use of TAM and GAM, executives and coaches have long insisted to me that the MLSPU numbers were suspect, and used Fabian Castillo’s reported salary as a case in point. Even with my best guesses about the use of TAM, I have them a half million dollars over the cap, which is more GAM than they could possibly have. That means there is a thing (or are things) that I can’t account for; take it with that grain of salt.
Almost all of the numbers reflected in the release were confirmed or set in place prior to Jesse Fioranelli taking over General Manager duties (aside from the raft of middle-market signings from January) but at least a few were decided upon after John Doyle, presumably the work of Chris Leitch. All that means that while we’ve seen a bit from Fioranelli as a talent-identifier and -acquirer, we haven’t really seen him in roster/salary-management mode. Next offseason we’ll get more of a taste of his financial discipline and eye for value.
To the salaries!
- Anibal Godoy ($256k) is not just this year’s MVP and the best player on the team since the day he set foot in San Jose (literally, since he played that day), he’s also the team’s best contract, with an original transfer fee under half a million, for a player who is still in his mid 20s. I don’t think I’m capable of describing in words how good of a deal that is. In fact, it’s such a good deal, I almost struggle to believe that Doyle made it, and assume he actively fought against it. Oh and if you don’t agree with me that he’s the best player on the team? Ask his teammates.
- People seem to have soured on Fatai Alashe ($144k) this year, and while he hasn’t been stellar, I think it’s deeply misplaced. His ideal role is a lone defensive midfielder, shielding the back line with two midfielders in front of him, and he hasn’t been able to play there for almost two years now. This season he’s spent quite a bit of time at center back, a position he’s still learning. But given the rate of salary growth across the league, this is a really good rate to pay for a guy who is good enough to play a major role on any of the 22 MLS franchises and provides versatility. He’s no longer the highway robbery he was at $90k his rookie season, but it’s still a damned good deal.
- The number next to Quincy Amarikwa’s name ($270k) never gets any less painful to see on the ledger. He was making $60k in 2014, put a decent season together for Chicago, and earned a well-deserved raise to $100k. He then played poorly, got traded for next to nothing (Ty Harden with one foot in retirement), scored 6 goals in a 4 month stretch, and John Doyle saw fit to nearly triple his salary. I really like Quincy as a guy, and think he’s a good stylistic fit for the team, but he scored one more goal (3) than Chad Barrett did last year. Plus Marco Ureña, who is several years younger, comes with more pedigree, and is overall a more talented technical player, comes at the same price. It just doesn’t make business sense.
- A bunch of players, including Darwin Cerén ($249k), David Bingham ($198k), Cordell Cato ($139k), Shaun Francis ($123k), Andres Imperiale ($107k), and Mattheus Silva ($65k) all got bumps as part of their options being exercised or the yearly raises built into their contracts, which is a fairly normal structure in terms of world football. It does, however, force the question every offseason with players like Cerén: do we think he’ll present good value not just this year, but at the end of his contract, when it’s more expensive? Considering he’s entering into an option year in 2018, I’ll be fascinated to see how Fioranelli evaluates it. Bingham is obviously a great value. Silva is on basically a minimum contract, but it seems like he’s yet to take that next step in development. The rest are perhaps just a shade spendy, but roughly what the market rate is for role players/spot starters at their respective positions.
- Wait what? Leandro Barrera ($100k) is still with the team? My guess is this is a quirk of MLSPU’s surveying methods. As of when I stopped covering the club, I got no indication he was still associated with San Jose in any meaningful sense, much like when Sanna Nyassi quietly disappeared, but whose name kept popping up on the salary survey.
- Peak Doyle: handing out an extension to Shea Salinas (185k) that included a rich raise despite a diminishing role and advancing age, seemingly out of a sense of loyalty and locker room fit. It’s not a big enough deal or bad enough to get mad about, though. What you can’t blame on Doyle are more than doubling Kofi Sarkodie’s salary ($140k) or giving Marvell Wynne (257k), a fine player coming off a good season but also a 30something and poor tactical fit, a larger contract than he got 2 years ago on the free market. I actually like Sarkodie, but if he was that far behind Lima and Francis on the depth chart, maybe he isn’t worth that. It’s unclear to me what role Fioranelli played in these particular extensions, but I don’t know if I like either of them.
- Tommy Thompson ($155k) is sitting on the same salary he was on before, but presumably with a longer time horizon than his original deal (which was due to expire after this year). The Homegrown rule is still a mystery wrapped in an enigma, but generally the second contact is on the books, so it’s likely that Tommy’s cap number will move from 0 to the league’s middle-class.
- Marc Pelosi ($75k) took a bit of a salary cut in order to stay, which makes sense for a guy who hasn’t laced up his boots for more than a year now, but is a real talent and still young. You gotta take fliers like these sometimes.
- Chris Wondolowski ($800k) finally gets his well-earned raise. Simply put, he’s been a steal at around $600k the last four years, as the team’s talisman, leader, and only real goalscorer. He’s quite possibly the greatest striker in MLS history. I literally don’t care about how productive he’ll be this year or next, he deserves this raise, and I wouldn’t have even blinked if it was more. He’s an automatic statue outside Avaya and, especially considering dollars over the DP threshold don’t even count against the cap, it doesn’t take away from the rest of the team to reward him for it. Doyle gets credit for doing right by number 8.
- Jackson Yueill ($176k) is making a fairly staggering amount for a rookie, not far behind Jordan Morris, who it hardly needs to be said was already a US National Team player when he inked that deal. However, it’s a Generation Adidas contract, which means the Quakes don’t bear the burden of the salary on their cap (or even on their books, if I’m not mistaken). What it shows, since it was negotiated by the league, is that the league as a whole thinks he’s a big, big talent. And he’s just 19.
- Danny Hoesen ($503k), Florian Jungwirth ($517k), and Jahmir Hyka ($520) all come in right above the TAM threshold, validating my theory that salaries just above it make a lot more sense for team construction than just below it. Simply put, half a million per year is the going rate for a 20something foreign player who is a potential difference-maker at the MLS level, so they’re all accurate value as far as I’m concerned. Jungwirth has already proven beyond doubt he’s worth it, as arguably the team’s best defender so far. Hyka has shown he’s the best technical player in the team, and I suspect that as time goes on Kinnear (or whoever, for the Kinnear-out crowd) will find ways to utilize him more effectively, and we’ll feel better about his value later on. Hoesen has not yet proven he’s worth the money, but he’s shown flashes of the combination of size/athleticism/technique that got Ajax fans excited about him as a youth prospect, and, as with Hyka, I could imagine him really shining in a slightly different system than he’s currently been plugged into. I could also imagine him never quite delivering on the promise, or being perennially misused.
- Marco Ureña ($289k) comes in a bit lower than the other TAM players, but since the original press release referenced TAM, I’m assuming it was used on a modest transfer fee. I think this is good value for what he brings, which is something the Quakes didn't precisely have on roster, but he’s never going to be a superstar. At 26, and at that price, he doesn’t have to be. Well played.
- Harold Cummings ($301k) should hypothetically be a good value, since that’s roughly what you want to pay a starting-caliber CB in the league. From what I’ve seen of him on tape and learned from scouting-oriented people, he should be of that quality. The fact he’s just 25 and on a free transfer is even better. Of course, he had a minor sports related injury in preseason, then a bizarre serious injury at home on vacation that will keep him out of the majority of the season. It sounds oddly like when Steven Lenhart hurt his foot “biking in flip flops,” according to the team (spoiler alert: it wasn’t the real story). So if I’m grading the transaction, it gets high speculative marks. But it’s more accurate to call it an “incomplete” for a player who hasn’t yet laced it up for the team.