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Six Degrees: At Last

Atlanta United v Portland Timbers - MLS Cup Championship Match Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

I wrote an entire “Five Favorite Wingers” column, because there was almost no Timbers news this past week. Welp, looks I’ll be saving that wingers column for later, because around 4 pm Monday evening, the Timbers dropped the big news we’ve all been waiting on.

1) Diego Valeri’s coming back. Woo hoo!

2) Now, before I begin, let me just say that I am in no way an expert on contract law or MLS salary cap rules or whatever witchcraft would come in handy in breaking down Valeri’s deal. All that being said, after reading the press release a few times, I came away with exactly one sentence of useful information.

“Transaction: Portland Timbers sign midfielder Diego Valeri to a multi-year contract extension using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).”

And that’s it. That’s the only informative sentence in the entire press release. Everything else is either a bunch of statistics saying how great Valeri is or a generically happy quote from Gavin, Gio, or Diego.

3) But, that one useful sentence, does it tell us anything? Erm... a little. But only a little.

It tells us that the deal is “multi-year,” which means two years minimum, so Valeri will be around for 2020 and 2021. Past that... who knows?

It also tells us it’s a TAM deal, so the team still has two DP slots open.

And I think that’s all we know. Is that all we know? Are their weird legal subtleties I’m missing here? Please, if you understand the dark magic of MLS contracts, help us all out down in the comments.

4) But even without knowing details, I’m still ready to call this a win for the Timbers front office. They got a great player, who’s a great member of the community, while also freeing up a DP slot.

Did Diego get all the money he wanted? Probably not next year. Going from DP to TAM, it seems likely that he’ll take a pay cut next year.

But maybe he’s willing to take that cut because the team signed him for three, four, maybe even five more years. Maybe Diego’s willing to lose a short-term DP contract if it means getting a long-term TAM contract.

Again, this is all just conjecture. I have no inside info or legal expertise, but would love to hear about it if any of you do.

5) Here’s a good question: how long a contract is too long? Valeri will turn 34 this coming year, and 35 in 2021. If the team has signed him beyond that, at what point does it become a bad deal? At what point are we paying him more than he deserves? When he’s 36? 37?

There’s no way to know, since there’s no telling when he’ll suddenly get old.

But maybe the team’s planned for that. Maybe this TAM contract includes a yearly salary drop. (Again, this is total conjecture.) Or maybe they’ve put some cool incentives into the contract. Maybe they’ll pay him by the goal, so the better he plays, the more he’ll make.

Hell, you know what would be sweet? If the team signed Valeri to a league minimum contract, but he gets a hundred grand for every goal and assist. He could play until he was 50 if he wanted. We’d just wheel him out there when we needed a stoppage time winner.

6) Okay, this has been a happy column so far, but I’m gonna finish with something a little darker. Something I worry about.

Did Diego poison the locker room last year? And, if so, will that carry over into 2020?

Here’s a really interesting Twitter thread you should read. Way back in October, @pdx_analyst gave us a lot to think about. I’m not sure if I agree with it or disagree, but it’s very, very interesting.

As I’ve written before, there were many, many things that made 2019 so difficult. There was the long road trip. There was the long home stand. There was the Iron Front ban. There was Brian Fernandez possibly being an asshole. There was Diego Valeri being upset with his contract.

Only one of those things is returning in 2020, and it’s Diego Valeri. I’m not saying he did damage his relationships in the locker room last year, I’m just saying it’s possible. If it is, can he repair them? Will everything be good again in 2020?