The MLS secondary transfer window is now officially open and will remain open until Aug. 7. In a sense, the Sounders got a head start when they signed Joevin Jones and Xavier Arreaga on the final day of the primary transfer window. But they also pointedly left the door open to sign another Designated Player, stating that they worked those previous signings in a way that allowed them just enough room.
Jeremiah Oshan: Let’s start with the obvious first question, what do you see as the Sounders’ biggest need going forward?
Mark Kastner: I’m of two minds here. I think the most obvious longterm need is at defensive midfield, but I think in the short-term it’s a winger. Basically, I think the Sounders should be looking to replace Gustav Svensson and Víctor Rodríguez. Is that this window? Likely for the former, hopefully for the latter.
Tim Foss: I think that the biggest need is a wide player, even with Joevin Jones being brought back into the team. Rodríguez just isn’t a player that they seem able to count on to stay healthy, and I’m not sure that either of Henry Wingo or Handwalla Bwana can carry enough of the load to not bring in a high-impact winger.
Andrew Beck: This is the first window in a long time where I don’t think there is a big need. This allows the Sounders some flexibility to make a move looking at what makes the team best going into next year rather than trying to plug a hole for today. How you make the team best going forward really depends on what you are planning for the offseason. If you are leaning toward picking up Víctor’s option, a winger now doesn’t make as much sense since you have Joevin, Jordan Morris, Víctor and Harry Shipp all capable of playing there at a fairly high level. But if he’s going to be gone, maybe that’s where you look. In a similar fashion, the future of Svensson determines what you want to do in central midfield. If you want to try to get another year from him, it’s not a pressing need. But if you expect him to leave after this season, a true CDM would be the No. 1 priority.
Mark: Oh, I also think it’s paramount that the Sounders figure out how to keep Brad Smith for a long time. But I’m sure we’ll come onto that.
Tim: I don’t know the feasibility of it, but if they could sign for both positions this window I would hope the winger would be an immediate impact signing, while the CDM would be a younger player for the future not expected or required to play a ton this season.
Jeremiah: FWIW, I don’t think the Sounders are going to be able to sign two “impact” type players without losing a similarly salaried player. They made it pretty clear during the last window that they had just enough room to sign a DP this window and I’m not sure you can bring in, say, two TAM-level players for the same cap hit.
Tim: Yeah, I think I’d rather target a winger in this window, and a CDM in the next.
Jeremiah: Let’s dig into what Andrew said. Do you think there is a particular immediate need? Are you okay with the Sounders bringing in more of a longterm project as their “big” summer signing?
Andrew: How much of an impact is a winger really going to make though? Assuming you have Víctor and Morris for the stretch run with Shipp being the No. 1 option besides them. You can improve there, but I’m not sure the improvement would be that large. The caveat being: Can Victor remain healthy?
Mark: I am, yes. Actually, I prefer a long term project at this point. Especially if they’re looking at the DM position.
Tim: I don’t think it’s an immediate need, and I’m definitely supportive of signing a player that will be a long term project, even if that project is a winger. I think the big question around all of these decisions is Víctor’s health, though.
Jeremiah: I will go on record as saying that I’d actually be sort of disappointed if the Sounders signed someone in the 27-31 age range now in part because I think the starters they have at basically every position are good enough to compete for MLS Cup. I want them to look to the future with this signing.
Mark: Basically, if there’s a similar player to LAFC’s Eduard Atuesta, I want the Sounders to sign that player.
Andrew: The kind of players who would be more than a small improvement over Víctor/Morris or Svensson are going to be quite expensive. A player who has the potential to be much better but isn’t there yet won’t be as expensive. But that player will be better than Jordy Delem, Bwana, or Wingo.
Tim: Yeah, I think that if they’re signing someone over the age of 26 for either of these positions at this point, either something has gone wrong or they got an absurd opportunity to sign a player that they wouldn’t regularly have had the ability to sign. And something going wrong seems much more likely.
Andrew: The only way I’m comfortable with a guy 26 or older is if Smith is going home, and you have an opportunity to sign your left back for the next four years.
Tim: I agree with Andrew. If Smith has to leave and they get the chance to sign Kelvin Leerdam but left-footed, I’m game.
Jeremiah: How is everyone feeling about the chances of Smith staying?
Andrew: I don’t see any reason why Smith would leave. Bournemouth clearly don’t think he can play on their squad. No one in the Championship is likely to pay more of his salary than the Sounders already are. And I don’t think anyone is going to make a purchase of him unless Bournemouth eat a bunch of his remaining salary. I still feel the most likely option is he sticks with Seattle until the end of the season, and then he signs a pre-contract somewhere. At that point Bournemouth can maybe get something for letting him join a new club six months early. But because of the salaries guys in the Championship make, I don’t really see his next club being Seattle. You’re probably trying to find a left back this winter.
Jeremiah: The new CBA could go a long way toward changing that equation, though. I’m not sure we should assume someone like Smith can definitely make more in the Championship than he can in MLS by the time 2020 contracts are being signed.
Mark: If it’s signed! There could be a work stoppage. But that’s for a different round table.
Andrew: Yes, a new CBA could change everything. But I’m not sure Smith will wait around for that to be negotiated when he can sign a pre-contract with a team in January.
Tim: Without as much background information as Andrew has, my gut says Smith’s here for the rest of the season, but probably not beyond that. I just don’t see the team dropping the kind of cash to keep him longterm, but it also wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t think the team would be signing a DP centerback — even if Arreaga is a DP in name only.
Jeremiah: I’m still of the mind that the most likely outcome with Smith is that he stays for the rest of the year and then works out a longer term extension with the Sounders in the offseason.
Andrew: If he’s willing to sign a pre-contract with Seattle for something like $700k, my guess is Bournemouth would let you have him for almost nothing. But you’d have to give him some sort of signing bonus that covers that six months of salary he’s losing.
But as far as this window is concerned, I think I’m fairly confident he’s going to remain at least through the end of the season.
Mark: I agree with that. I think it’s important they don’t lose him in this window though.
Tim: The FO is pretty good at keeping their dealings under wraps, so I’m inclined to think that the fact that all we’ve heard from them is basically that they want to keep him here is a good sign.
Andrew: If they are losing him, I feel pretty confident that would only be because the FO found a longterm replacement they can get now that they are more confident in locking up long term.
Besides Smith, are there any other players anyone thinks might leave?
Mark: I think the rumors of Nouhou leaving are a bit overstated. I would be surprised to see any other outs.
Tim: I still don’t think that Román Torres loves being the third CB, but I also don’t really expect him to leave during this window.
Andrew: I think I could still see Torres leaving. Saad Abdul-Salaam emerging as a viable third CB with Svensson still on the roster means that you’d probably be fine without him. And moving him might open up just enough cap space to do something else. I don’t think it’s likely, but it wouldn’t shock me.
Of course, what would a window be without the Nicolás Lodeiro back to Boca rumors?
Tim: I appreciate that this is the same energy as the Luis Suarez-to-Seattle rumors.
Jeremiah: I would say the possibility of Torres leaving is greater than zero, but I think the issue continues to be that there aren’t a ton of teams in MLS — or anywhere — dying to pick up a 33-year-old centerback who’s making about $700k a year and may only have a year or two left in his knees. At the same time, I think the Sounders would probably be looking for more than a simple salary dump if they moved him.
Tim: There are some pretty bad defenses in MLS with equally bad front offices to match.
Jeremiah: That’s why I put the possibility at greater than zero!
As far as this Lodeiro rumor, I’ll just say what I’ve always said: No one is untransferable but Boca is in some ways the team the Sounders are least likely to sell him to at anything like a discount. I also don’t see him forcing a move.
Andrew: In closing, all things being equal, I’d like Seattle to sign a young CDM. You’re just a Svensson injury away from running out Delem for the rest of the year or trying to put one of Lodeiro/Shipp/Leyva next to Roldan. I feel much worse about depth there than I do out wide.
And if I could choose anyone in the world, I’d want Jonathan Gonzalez, if only because it would be funny as hell and heads would explode on the internet.