The Sounders have cleared a lot of cap space, accumulated a large hoard of allocation treasure, and have signed some useful and interesting players that fit clear needs. However, the departures of Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales and Marc Burch have left behind a seriously depleted midfield. In addition, the departure of Burch leaves us with a yet-older Leo and a largely untested Dylan Remmick at left back. This is not a terrible combination at left back (perhaps even one some other teams might envy), but there is obvious room for improvement. We still have important needs.
The idea of the Sounders using allocation money to buy down Ozzie Alonso's contract to non-DP levels has been floated in a number of venues by supporters. We clearly have a lot of the funny money and more flexibility than we have had in a few years. The obvious question here is "How much would it require to buy him down to a non-DP level?".
For the purposes or this exercise, let's make the following assumptions:
- We have roughly $675K in new allocation ($600K-ish from DC/MLS for EJ and $75K-ish from Dallas in the Moffat/Cooper trade).
- Alonso got a sizable raise...let's say $600K...he certainly deserves it.
- The maximum player charge for this year will go up to $385,000 (2013 max charge was $368,750 per http://pressbox.mlssoccer.com/content/roster-rules-and-regulations)
In the above scenario, buying Alonso down will require $215K annually. If we want to cover this for 2 years, we have remove $430K of allocation money from our cache leaving us with only $245K. We gain a free DP slot. However, Dempsey, Oba, Alonso AND any new DP would hit our cap at the max $385K. With only $245K left to alleviate the cap-strain, we would almost certainly have played ourselves back into the same cap-tied corner.
There are a number of potential solutions to this conundrum. We can sign a 2nd homegrown player like Okoli or Jones who will be off-cap. With the 13th pick in the draft, we will almost certainly have the option of drafting a Generation Adidas player who would also be off-cap. Both of these solutions are valid components to a broader approach. However, they leave us with lots of talent and a serious deficit of experience. With the allocation money used or tied up, we can't go out and find this year's Erik Friberg or Djimi Traore - players who we know can plug in right away.
We could also decide to keep Alonso as a DP. We would be able to add a couple of Friberg or Traore-level players to fill needs and then roll with what we have. We would be unlikely to replace the quality lost with the departure or Mauro and EJ (and Zak if healthy) and would rely on the talent that we do have finally gelling in a more complete way. I suspect that this is the strategy we will employ...however...
There is a third way.
It is one we seem to have explored last year when we courted Argeninian youth Luciano Vietto. We can sign a youth-DP. The cap hit for a 21-22 year old youth DP in 2013 was $200K. Let's assume that this will go up to $210K. This would mean that, while we tie up $430K of allocation money over two years by removing the DP tag from Alonso, we *save* $350K in cap-space by signing a youth DP. At $40K difference a year (-$215K allocation, +$175K cap-space), this is very nearly a wash. If we were fortunate enough to find a 19 or 20 year old player we felt was worthy, we would actually clear more cap space than we would spend buying Alonso down in this scenario. We would get to bring in a young player who *might* be able to contribute right away, who *might* have the potential to be a star. Because we would have freed up all that cap space in addition to a remaining $245K of allocation, we would still be able to find and sign a couple of experienced players like a Friberg, Johansson or Traore. In essence, this would leave us with a similar roster to what we would have by leaving Alonso a DP, yet we would add youth DP. He would have time to develop without huge and immediate pressure...unless he simply forced his way on to the field. It's a best-of-both-worlds move.
All of the above is, of course, pure speculation. Any of the assumptions above could be completely false. If Alonso's salary, for example, was closer to $750K, then the math changes completely. But...as long as we're speculating...could we already be making such a move? Jorge Bazán, a 22-year old Peruvian who has played a number of roles for Alianza Lima (including CM, Left Wing and Forward), is rumored to be on his way to MLS. DCU had been linked with him in the past, however, @Ben_Jata tweeted a quote from his camp: "It might frustrate the operation if we mention the name. All I can say is that we are negotiating with a MLS team.". It would seem like DCU, who have already been linked to him in the past, would have no need for such anonymity. Our Adrian, however, loves to keep things as quiet as possible. It's probably highly unlikely, but fun to contemplate. I have no idea if Bazán would even command DP money. He would also only have one year as a youth DP, which would reduce the efficacy of this strategy. However, there are plenty of other interesting young players out there. IF the Sounders are considering paying Alsono down, this may well be the year that Sounders grab thier first Youth Designated Player.