Contrary to any number rumors from the other side of the Atlantic (and Pacific!), all signs point toward the Portland Timbers having no interest in transferring Fanendo Adi this winter.
On one level, the reason for this is very simple. Adi has been great for the Timbers pretty much since he arrived, scoring 27 goals and logging 8 assists in 63 MLS appearances over his less-than-two-years with the club.
But you have to lose something in order to get something, and if the rumors are indicative of anything it’s that Adi is starting to pick up some international cachet. Simply put, everybody has a number, including the Timbers when it comes to Adi.
So why, then, are the Timbers unlikely to be interested in transferring Adi this offseason almost regardless of the remuneration that could come their way?
The answer is three now-infamous letters: TAM.
And even if the Adi transfer rumors look highly likely to be without substance, they serve as a great illustration of the difference in transferability between a designated player and a productive TAM player.
Because Adi no longer occupies a DP spot, the Timbers’ resources to replace Adi if they were to transfer him right now would be relatively limited. When an MLS team transfers a player outside the league, the team receives two-thirds of the transfer fee with the other one-third going to MLS. Of the portion of the transfer fee that the club receives, 75% of it can be converted into allocation money, but only up to a maximum of $650,000 (at least as reported as of the summer of 2014).
If, for example, the Timbers transferred Adi for $3.5 million as has been rumored, the Timbers would receive approximately $2,345,000 in cash. Up to $650,000 of that cash would be convertible into allocation money.
With Adi being a player that the Timbers are using TAM on, therefore, the Timbers would have the amount that Adi currently counts against the salary cap, any amount of 2015 TAM that the Timbers planned to use to buy down Adi’s otherwise DP contract, and the $650,000 in transfer-fee allocation money to reinvest in a starting striker.
Although it’s impossible to predict exactly how much this would be, it seems likely that the Timbers would not have significantly more than $1.5 million to play with in finding a new striker, and potentially less than that amount.
At first blush, that assumption of approximately $1.5 million seems like a lot of money. But when you consider that amount represents the most that the Timbers could sink into any transfer fee and the 2016 salary for a striker transfer target, suddenly the prospect of replacing Adi’s production with those resources seems highly uncertain.
So transferring Adi right now would leave the Timbers with a big hole to fill and less-than-spectacular resources with which to do so.
That calculus, however, would change significantly if the Timbers had an open DP slot that they could use to lure a new striker.
If the Timbers had an open DP slot at the time they transferred Adi and completed the same transfer, the club would receive the same $2,345,000 in cash and convert the same $650,000 into allocation money. Rather than use that allocation money on the new signing, however, the Timbers could use off-cap money (including the remaining $1,695,000 in cash from the transfer) to invest in a new striker (the Timbers could and likely would, of course, spend considerably more than that) and have the new player’s salary-cap hit capped at the DP level, which in 2016 appears to be set at $457,500. The Timbers would then also have the $650,000 in allocation money to otherwise use on the roster.
In summary, therefore, by transferring Adi when they have a DP slot open, the Timbers would be able to spend much more on his replacement without significant additional cap exposure while also earning an additional $650,000 in allocation money to use on other parts of the roster.
That’s a massive, massive difference.
When could the Timbers have a DP spot open? Likely as early as next offseason when Liam Ridgewell’s contract expires and he either returns to England or re-signs for the Timbers on what would almost certainly be a non-DP contract.
Which is to say this: Fanendo Adi is a really good player who is just now entering his prime. There is a good chance that sometime in the not-too-distant future it will make sense both for Adi and for the Timbers to move the big striker overseas.
But for the Timbers that time isn’t now.
Moreover, considering how happy Adi appeared to be in Portland throughout last summer and fall, there’s a good chance he isn’t dead set on blazing a trail out of town, either.
And to some extent you can thank TAM for that.