Zach Kay: Okay, welcome all to the first ever Stumptown Footy Round Table Discussion. This is a new format we're trying out this offseason, and our first topic is this year's Expansion Draft.
The expansion draft is slated for December 12th and the list of eligible players will be out on the 10th. As a quick refresher on the rules, every team can protect 11 players, LAFC gets 5 picks, and each team can only lose one player.
To start, here's the list of 24 eligible Timbers, before the club names their 11 protected:
Adi, Vytas, Arboleda, Arokoyo, Asprilla, Attinella, Barmby, Blanco, Chara, Gleeson, Guzman, Mabiala, Mattocks, McIntosh, Melano, Miller, Myers, Nagbe, Olum, Powell, Ridgewell, Tuiloma, Valentin, Valeri
So let's begin the discussion with which Timbers are, for you, must-protect players?
Chris Rifer: I think the mind-numbingly obvious ones are Adi, Valeri, Nagbe, Blanco, Chara, Guzman, and Mabiala. I think Vytas is also pretty obvious, but maybe just short of mind-numbingly so.
Zach: No Ridgewell?
Katelyn Best: I second Chris, but I'd rank them Valeri, Chara, Adi, Blanco, Guzman, Nagbe, Vytas, Mabiala.
Chris: I think Gavin Wilkinson would send Bob Bradley an Edible Arrangement if they selected Ridgewell. I very much doubt he’ll be protected.
Kevin McCamish: Ridgewell isn't a 'duh' key player. I agree with Chris that the ones you'd be bonkers to not protect are: Adi, Vytas, Blanco, Chara, Guzman, Valeri, Mabiala, and Nagbe.
Timm Higgins: Chris hit the nail on the head, but I'm in the line of thinking that you don't have to protect Ridgewell.
Katelyn: In the sense that they wouldn't want him, Timm?
Kevin: I think with Ridgewell you are better served to protect other players. If he gets picked, "yay, more cap space to find a new CB somewhere." If he doesn't, "well, we didn’t waste a protection spot on him."
Timm: I think with only having 5 choices, and all the teams participating, that the odds are pretty slim that he'd get picked in my opinion. I'm going with the odds more than anything.
Will Conwell: I can’t argue with any of the above. However, I will push back on Katelyn’s ranking of Vytas above Mabiala. If the Timbers lost Larrys I would be extremely nervous about their back line prospects heading into 2018. I’d prefer to hold on to Vytas, of course, but the Timbers have Farfan behind him, who I am very high on.
Of course, that is all moot given that you should just protect Vytas anyway.
Chris: It’s important to remember that recent expansion teams have treated the Expansion Draft as an opportunity to shop for quality, cheap depth. No expansion team would want to devote TAM-level money to a centerback (albeit a good one) that likely won’t play more than 20 games.
Timm: In my list I have both Vytas and Mabiala protected, they're both vital to the defense. While Vytas had an up and down season, I do believe he can produce.
Zach: Okay, so it seems like we all agree the eight players we should definitely protect (in no particular order) are Valeri, Vytas, Mabiala, Adi, Chara, Blanco, Guzman, and Nagbe. That leaves us with three more protection slots and sixteen players to use them on. Maybe the first thing we need to ask ourselves is, do we protect a keeper?
Kevin: I do not have a keeper protected on my list.
Timm: I have Attinella protected on my list, I think you need to protect at least one. And while neither are great, I'm going with the the guy that helped us get into the playoffs.
Chris: I think this question will be answered by whether PTFC has another keeper lined up. If so, I can see leaving both Gleeson and Attinella unprotected. If not, I think PTFC needs to protect one to make sure they have their choice of keeper on the roster for next year.
For me, that would be Attinella, but I’m a bit more agnostic on the Attinella vs Gleeson debate than some others.
Kevin: I agree with that. So if I'm in charge, I've (hopefully) got a starting GK lined up, which is why I wouldn't protect a GK. Then if one gets picked, the other is the backup. However, if I had to protect Gleeson or Attinella, I'd go Attinella all day long.
Will: I would protect Attinella. I think he is enough of a step up from Gleeson that losing him would make navigating this offseason much more difficult for the Timbers. They already have enough to deal with given the back line issues and coaching search that I wouldn’t want to add finding a new keeper to the list as well if I can avoid it.
Zach: It's probably also worth mentioning that finding a keeper wasn't mentioned in Wednesday's press call.
Kevin: The reason why I didn't put a GK down was I've got Powell and Asprilla as 9/10 on my list. Then I had to debate "who do I feel would be more likely to get picked for depth, Attinella or Valentin?" and I was at an impasse, but decided Valentin.
Chris: That’s definitely worth mentioning, Zach. For what it’s worth, if PTFC has another starting keeper lined up, I could be talked into preferring Gleeson over Attinella. I think it makes sense to bet on upside in a true backup keeper rather than a more worn and imperfect keeper like Attinella.
Zach: But if there isn't another keeper lined up, you protect Attinella?
Timm: So if they're not looking for a keeper, then it makes perfect sense to keep Attinella.
Kevin: Yeah, if they aren't shopping for a starting GK, then Attinella is on my protected list.
Chris: Yep. I would want the little bit more reliability in a starter. I think Attinella has an edge there, even if I’m not sure it’s as large as many think.
Zach: Okay, so then we have 2 more protection slots available and 15 players to use them on.
Kevin already mentioned Powell, Asprilla, and Valentin. What are our thoughts on those three, or other players we think should fill those last two slots?
Kevin: They did mention they are shopping for a proven, dynamic attacking piece. So now that I think about that, maybe Asprilla is not worth protecting?
Chris: To narrow the conversation (or maybe just spark another side conversation), I think these last two basically boil down to a group of Powell, Valentin, Mattocks, and Asprilla as potential candidates (in no particular order).
Kevin: With the 4 Chris mentioned, let’s break this into two groups. The two defensive players, and the two offensive players. If you are shopping for an attacking piece do you protect Mattocks or Asprilla?
Katelyn: Asprilla feels like a player you might want to pick up as a depth piece, no?
Timm: That would be Asprilla, in regards to what Kevin is saying.
Zach: As to Mattocks vs Asprilla, I think the difference in salary combined with the presence of Ebo as another backup striker makes Asprilla the more attractive candidate for protection.
Chris: I agree, Zach. Asprilla is on my list for basically that reason. And he’s PTFC’s only true, direct winger in light of Arboleda’s bleh year in 2017. Given the affordability of his contract, I think it’s a relatively easy decision to protect him.
Will: I think when we are looking at Mattocks as a possibility for this slot, what exactly his contract status is should be a pretty huge factor. According to the Timbers' corrected release, the team are in negotiations with him, and the result (or lack of a result) could swing his attractiveness as a possible pick in either direction.
Zach: Can you expand on that, Will?
Will: Well, I think that if the Timbers are looking to bring him back at a reduced number—or even a not-inflated number—and he is amenable to that, then he is suddenly a very attractive pick. Capable non-TAM/DP level strikers are becoming more and more rare in MLS. If he is still negotiating, then his future plans suddenly become an important factor: is he angling for a move outside the league if he can't get his salary demands? Will he be a malcontent on the bench for a year until his contract runs out? I think it makes him a much more difficult pick to gauge.
That being said, I would go with Powell and Asprilla.
Kevin: What if the negotiations go past the expansion protection list deadline?
Chris: My assumption with Mattocks is that if PTFC signs him it will be in the neighborhood ($300k) of his last contract.
Kevin: With Asprilla the cheaper (and likely more attractive option to an expansion side), I'm always leaning to protect Asprilla over Mattocks.
Chris: Kevin, the answer is that LAFC would basically step into PTFC’s shoes with Mattocks. They wouldn’t be required to pick up his current option, and would have first crack at negotiating with him. But if they didn’t reach a deal, Mattocks would go through the ordinary re-allocation methods (Re-Entry Draft for him, I think).
Timm: Asprilla is a tasty nugget for an expansion side, so I'd keep him.
Zach: So then with the consensus seeming to be protecting Asprilla, the question becomes Powell or Valentin?
Kevin: I say temporarily register the both of them as Alvas Valentin and protect that guy.
It's very difficult because your RB situation is not something you need to worry about with those two, and both would be attractive to LAFC, I think.
Chris: I’m on Team Alvas here, even though I think Valentin is PTFC’s most likely player to get picked. Powell is just so damn hard to peg for well-discussed reasons. But his upside is so much higher than Valentin’s that I can’t quite give up on him at 23. Maybe in a couple more years, but for now I just can’t do it.
Timm: It's a tough one, and I know this isn't an entirely a popular view, but I'd take Valentin over Powell.
Roscoe Myrick: I feel like the "looking for a versatile attacking piece" is what they were kind of doing with Mattocks, so I feel like he's replaceable.
Kevin: You could look at the “we are shopping for a dynamic attacking player” and perhaps assume someone who can play in the line of 3 behind our striker. If that is the case then you could argue to not protect Asprilla and keep both Powell and Valentin protected, but it seems silly to have 2 RBs on a protected XI.
Roscoe: Powell and Asprilla for me.
Chris: I think Will makes good points about Mattocks and that if PTFC does bring him back at ~$300-$325k he may be attractive to LAFC. But still, given Ebobisse’s presence on the roster and the significant cap savings, I wouldn’t be all that disappointed to see Mattocks go.
Kevin: Me either. I really wish Ebobisse got more minutes than he did.
Will: As far as this Dynamic Attacking Player goes, I think that bringing in that sort of piece doesn't necessarily mean that the team is replacing Mattocks or Asprilla. Instead, I think that the team is betting on a guy like Nagbe playing a bigger central role with Guzman at the World Cup.
Zach: Thinking about it from LAFC’s perspective, is Powell or Valentin more attractive to them? Valentin is a proven, steady depth piece. Powell is a bit more up in the air, but as Chris said, he has a lot of potential that could also be very attractive to a new team. Is it a stretch to assume that either one of these players will be leaving in this draft?
Timm: I think it could be a big possibility one of them lands in LA.
Chris: I’d peg the chances at 30% that the unprotected RB goes, Zach.
Will: I said it above, but full backs are always at a premium in MLS and either of those guys can be a starting-quality right back. Best XI? Maybe not. But they could have started for a number of teams in MLS last season and been an upgrade.
Chris: It’s a big league and LA only gets 5 picks. Will either Valentin or Powell be the most attractive RB on the market? And will LA want a primary RB? Possible, but I wouldn’t say likely, per se.
Charles McNeil: How likely would they be to pick up one of the RBs purely as a trade option?
Chris: That’s always a possibility. But I don’t think the trade value of either of these guys is great. Maybe Powell more than Zarek because upside sells, but I don’t look at these guys and think “I’m going to flip him for $200k TAM.”
Will: So here is a question: other than the four guys that we are talking about for the last two spots, is there anyone else on the Timbers' roster that seems like a real possibility to be picked?
Kevin: Not really. Not given the premium each pick holds to LAFC.
Chris: Other than, I suppose, the unprotected GK stuff we talked about earlier.
Kevin: Thing is, if I'm LAFC, I don’t think I’m going to waste one of my 5 picks on a backup keeper. As a team like that, my assumption is they want a good starting keeper and will go to the market for one. Backup keeper is probably going to be a lower priority than other depth pieces so really could be safe to leave both keepers unprotected.
Will: A procedural question that relates to my previous: do they have to protect Melano? Could LA get some value from picking him up?
Timm: Interesting thought, Will. Maybe being on loan is protected? If not, he would be an option possibly for LAFC, but he's been terrible this year. So he'd probably sneak through without getting picked.
Chris: It’s really hard to know, Will. I can’t imagine PTFC would protect him in any event given that his resale value seems pretty well shot, but I could be wrong. There’s a chance Melano turns into a dead-weight protection spot, I suppose.
Zach: My understanding is Melano would be eligible for the draft, but I'm not sure how attractive Melano looks right now. If I'm LAFC, I don't think he's a guy I'm looking at and hoping to get my hands on.
Kevin: He is under contract and the cap hit would be significant. If LAFC want that, fine by me. Would only hinder their ability to build up the rest of the squad, and I always enjoy seeing an LA team fall short of expectations.
Will: Do I think LA would want him as a player? Nope. Do I think that LA would mind picking him up and selling him on for a bargain bin price to grab up more allocation money? Sure. I guess we will see if the Timbers think he still has any value as an asset when the protected list comes out, then.
Chris: Of note re Melano: he’s probably not worth anything to LAFC. He’s on loan. Even if they sell him, the proceeds of that sale wouldn’t recoup his initial purchase fee and, therefore, they wouldn’t be able to squeeze any GAM out of the sale.
Will: Good point, Chris.
Chris: They’d get some cash, sure, but probably not all that much in the grand scheme.
Will: Yeah. GAM is worth something to every team, but cash is probably not a priority to any of the incoming expansion teams.
Chris: Especially one as well-funded as LAFC. A few hundred grand to that ownership group is pocket change.
Zach: Okay, so to bring this to a close, the protected eleven (based on general consensus) stands at: Adi, Vytas, Asprilla, Attinella, Blanco, Chara, Guzman, Mabiala, Nagbe, Valeri, Powell.
Chris: Agree 100%, Zach.
Kevin: Works for me
Zach: Excellent. Well, thanks everyone for playing. This has been a fun new thing to do, and I look forward to doing it again in the future. I guess now (at least as far as the expansion draft goes) we just wait until the 10th and see who PTFC actually chooses to protect!
What do you think? Were our picks spot on? Did we miss someone important, or protect someone we should let go? Are we fools to let our angel Zarek Valentin slip away so easily? Let us know in the comments.