After the party is the after party. But, sadly, after the after party comes the morning after.
And in MLS that morning after can be particularly cruel, as some players who won MLS Cup the evening before can suddenly find themselves without a club.
Ultimately, the decision to announce transactions the day after the Cup has nothing to do with the club; the league mandates that clubs announce their first batch of offseason transactions on the Monday after MLS Cup to allow the trade window to open and the re-entry and free-agency process to begin.
And so, still riding high from winning MLS Cup the evening before, the Portland Timbers announced their transactions on Monday.
In short, the Timbers re-signed a pair of original MLS Timbers, Jack Jewsbury and Jake Gleeson; declined the options of Maximiliano Urruti, Norberto Paparatto, Andrew Weber, Michael Nanchoff, Jeanderson, Nick Besler, and Andy Thoma (although the club remains in negotiations with Paparatto, Besler, and Thoma); exercised the options of Taylor Peay, Anthony Manning, Michael Seaton, and George Fochive; and continue negotiating with Rodney Wallace and Ben Zemanski, both of whom are out of contract.
Here are the details:
There is a bit of good news in Monday’s transactions for a player who had made himself a club legend: The Timbers have re-signed Jewsbury, making it very likely that the original MLS Timber will finish his career in Portland.
Jewsbury’s do-it-all play and steady locker-room presence make it an easy decision to keep him around as long as he would like to play. Although Jewsbury’s days of running the flanks are likely over, the club captain had a better-than-solid season as a defensive midfielder, giving the team depth at a spot in which they needed it in 2015.
And, while Jewsbury has still proved to be plenty useful to the club on the field, he has earned the right to decide when and how he ends his career. By re-signing Jewsbury, the Timbers made clear on Monday that they want him to do so in green and gold.
In addition, the club re-signed Gleeson to a multi-year deal, perhaps the clearest sign yet that the Timbers are pleased with the progress from the Kiwi shot-stopper. Although Adam Kwarasey has a firm hold on the number-one spot, Gleeson’s selection in the first leg of the conference semifinal demonstrated the club now regards him as the number-two goalkeeper.
The Timbers have declined the contract options of Urruti, Paparatto, Weber, Jeanderson, Besler, and Thoma.
A contract option is, in essence, a provision in a player’s contract that gives the club the option of extending the contract for a period of time (usually one year) at a pre-agreed salary. The salary term is often a sticking point with an option, however, as it can frequently implicate a considerably higher wage bill for the player in the option year than in previous years.
The Timbers also declined Michael Nanchoff’s option and, as a result, Nanchoff will enter the MLS Re-Entry Draft. Although he has always been one of the most engaging personalities in the locker room, Nanchoff’s struggles to find the field likely made him a casualty of the need for flexibility on the team’s senior roster.
Although the Timbers declined Paparatto’s option, the club remains in negotiations with the Argentine centerback to reach an agreement on a new contract. Although Paparatto has spent most of the year on the bench as the team's third centerback, his play has been good enough that the Timbers remain very much interested in keeping Paparatto in the club.
Like Paparatto, the Timbers are in negotiations to keep both Thoma and Besler, although the club retains a first right of refusal on both players on account of the team making a bona fide offer to each. The Timbers declined both players’ options as a result of roster mechanics in an effort to keep both players’ contracts off the salary cap should they reach an agreement to return in 2016.
The Timbers on Monday exercised the contract options of Peay, Fochive, Manning, and Seaton. The move ensures Fochive and Peay, the Timbers' most promising youngsters, will stay in Portland for at least another season.
Fochive had a breakout year with the first team, as he answered an unexpected call to play many meaningful minutes in the middle of the park for the first team. Although Fochive still has some work to do to become a first-choice central midfielder, he has risen to every challenge placed in front of him to date. By picking up his option, the Timbers are betting that he’ll continue to do so.
Peay perhaps showed the most growth of any player on the Timbers' roster through the course of the season. Although he started the year spending the majority of his days with T2, by the fall Peay was the full-time backup right back on the first team. There remain questions about whether Peay’s future is at right back or in central defense, but in the immediate future there is no question with whom Peay will continue his development.
Players Out of Contract
Finally, Wallace and Zemanski are currently out of contract, although the club is negotiating with both players to return to the Rose City. Although little more is known about the status of the negotiations, the most common outcome of negotiations like this for players who are not eligible for free agency is to re-sign with the club.
2015 was a lost year for Zemanski, as a preseason ACL injury ended his year before it began. The Timbers remain interested in retaining Zemanski, however, in light of his effective play in Will Johnson’s stead in 2014. Coming out of a year on the mend isn’t the best time for Zemanski to hit the market and, accordingly, it seems like a deal with the Timbers would probably be in everybody’s best interest.
Wallace’s situation appears to be a little bit more delicate. The Timbers are very interested in retaining Wallace’s services, something that should come as a surprise to nobody. Since he blossomed in Caleb Porter’s first season at the helm in Portland, Wallace has been among the Timbers' most consistent contributors. Moreover, Wallace’s defensive contributions make him particularly valuable as a winger, as defensive commitment from attacking players isn’t the easiest trait to come by.
But therein lies the rub with Wallace: He certainly has value around MLS, and in order to keep him the Timbers are going to have to pay for a player at a position at which Portland also has Dairon Asprilla and Lucas Melano. At the age of 27 and with seven years of MLS service, Wallace is still a year away from being eligible to enter free agency. It is possible, therefore, that Wallace may be inclined to return to Portland for at least another season before becoming eligible for free agency next year or beyond.
Thus, although there is some genuine uncertainty as to whether the Timbers will be able to reach new agreements with Zemanski and Wallace, it appears there are some incentives in place for both players to stay in Portland for 2016.