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Mock Expansion Draft: Projecting the Timbers' Protected List

Although many variables remain unknown, here is who the Timbers will likely protect in the expansion draft.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

A couple weeks back we broke down some of the biggest decisions facing the Portland Timbers as they shape their expansion-draft strategy. Today, in anticipation of the SB Nation mothership’s mock expansion draft, we, along with our sister sites, project the Timbers’ protected list.

Before going any further, however, there are a few new bits of information about the run-up to the expansion draft and how it will affect teams’ protected lists. First, on December 8th the Timbers will announce which 2014 players are out of contract or have had their options declined.

That same morning teams can begin announcing international signings.  Even if announced on the 8th, those international signings will not be subject to the expansion draft if the contract is dated after December 10th – the day of the expansion draft.  Thus, as a practical matter, any international signings announced on the 8th will likely not be part of the expansion draft.

In addition, the morning of December 8th will bring with it a four-hour MLS trade window between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. on the west coast. Players traded during this window will be subject to the expansion draft, meaning teams will either have to protect their new intra-MLS acquisition or face the risk of losing the player they just traded for. Expect this window to be active across MLS as teams look to unload players they fear losing in the expansion draft to maximize their return. So, it’s very possible that the roster will look different before the Timbers release their protected list in the early afternoon of December 8th.

In other words, it’s probably advisable to get up early on December 8th and hang on for what promises to be quite a morning.

Finally, it’s important to note that the universe of information we can use to project the protected list is limited. We know, for example, that some players’ salaries are quite different from those posted on the MLS Players Union’s website. If, for example, a player carried a considerably larger salary-cap hit than the Players Union numbers reflect, his expansion-draft stock would be significantly lower than it appears and the player would be less likely to be poached on December 10th. Thus it’s possible, and probably even likely, that there will be one or two surprises on the protected list on account of unknown variables.

With that out of the way, here is the Timbers’ projected protected list:

Diego Valeri – Because this, among myriad other reasons.

Fanendo Adi – Hey, MLS general managers, quick show of hands: Who wants a 24-year-old target striker who scored 9 goals and logged four assists in 24 appearances in his first MLS season? Oh, and he can do this. [Every hand shoots into the air]. Moving on.

Darlington Nagbe – I know, I know, goals and stuff. But nobody in MLS does stuff like this better than Nagbe.

Rodney Wallace – At one point in 2013 Caleb Porter called Wallace one of the best wingers in MLS. At the time I thought that was a little optimistic. Shows what I know.

Diego Chara – While not the most prolific creator of highlights, if Diego Valeri is the Timbers’ franchise player, Chara is its engine and an absolute tyrant in central midfield.

Alvas Powell – Still in the process of growing into the player he can be, Powell’s previous flashes of potential turned into things like this in the fall of 2014.

Jorge Villafana – A revelation at left back in 2014, Villafana looks to have a hold on that spot going into 2015 because of plays like this one.

Maximiliano Urruti – 10 goals in less than 1200 minutes is real good. This one had it all: tremendous movement, a top-shelf finish, and a magical moment between Urruti and Wallace.

Gaston Fernandez – Forget his poaching abilities, it’s this kind of stuff that makes Fernandez indispensible in light of Diego Valeri’s injury.

Ben Zemanski – Another guy made indispensible in light of injury, Zemanski came up big for Portland after Will Johnson went down, chipping in subtly solid play (don’t blink at the beginning of that highlight) playing alongside and behind Chara.

Will Johnson – He didn’t have his best year in 2014, and the last protected spot is probably a tossup between Johnson and Liam Ridgewell, but the captain remains a core piece of the Timbers’ locker-room fabric, has (injury notwithstanding) a relatively reasonable contract, and passes like this from a defensive central midfielder definitely come in awfully handy.

Under expansion-draft rules, once a team loses a player they get to re-protect another. Assuming the Timbers’ first loss of the draft is not Ridgewell, you can expect Portland to pull the centerback off the board. If Ridgewell is plucked early, expect the Timbers to take Norberto Paparatto off the table to keep from losing two starting-quality central defenders.

The expansion draft is rarely a sure bet for teams trying to keep their core intact, and, as noted, expect a surprise or two on the protected list.  But come the second Monday in December it appears there will likely be no reason to be concerned about losing the vast majority of the above eleven players.