Quakes Cap and Personnel Situation after Barklage Release
After the Quakes relased right-back Brandon Barklage, few fans mourned the player who was fairly ineffectual in a Earthquakes jersey, but more than a few were left confused about how exactly the front office was going to manage this roster, a year after similar absences took a major toll on team performance.
The defense, just two deep in ideal circumstances, has been left threadbare by injuries, suspensions, and now a release. With the Mercury News reporting that Paulo Renato is out this weekend and Clarence Goodson is uncertain, there are only three players on the roster that are both truly defenders and definitely healthy. Here is the depth chart Dom Kinnear appeared to have in mind going into the season, with absences noted:
|Left Back||Left Center Back||Right Center Back||Right Back|
|1|| || ||Clarence Goodson (questionable)||Marvell Wynne|
|2||Shaun Francis|| ||Ty Harden|| |
As such, I'll aim to explore the internal and external options to shore up defensive depth, both immediately and by the end of the season. It'll also give me the opportunity to share my spreadsheet of Quakes salaries that I've put together in advance of the players union releasing them in April, incorporating developments from the latest CBA, in an attempt to figure out the master plan behind the scenes.
While this will be the first move to shore up the short-term issues, I have a feeling those very moves could signal long-term intentions given how intentional Kinnear has seemed to be about roster moves thus far.
Most notably, JJ Koval has already played a significant amount of center-back for the Earthquakes and is one of the players Kinnear name-checked as potential starters this weekend. Koval's skillset may actually be better suited to the position as a career, with slow decision-making on the ball and limited technical ability much less important than in his current defensive midfield spot. Additionally, with the age of the Quakes CBs (three of four are into their 30s), I could imagine that the front office sees him as a prospect for future years in the back line. Quality central-midfielders aren't particularly easy to come by, and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi is out for this weekend as well, so I think that in the super-short-term, this move may be linked to a cascade of other temporary moves such as playing Shea Salinas, Matias Perez-Garcia, or Tommy Thompson through the middle, or hoping that Khari Stephenson is still capable of contributing.
The other major move with the guys currently on the squad could be Cordell Cato dropping back. The Mercury News article from above mentions him as a candidate to fill in at right-back for the time being, but, like Koval, I have an inkling this one might also signal a long-term shift. Cato isn't particularly big, strong, or tough in the tackle, but he's played right-back for the Quakes in the past, and has shown he can mark a man. He also has electric pace and is young enough to be taught, giving him a future at the position, played in a style not dissimilar to Marvell Wynne or DeAndre Yedlin. Moreover, the Quakes wings all of a sudden look like one of the deepest positions, with true wingers Sanna Nyassi, Leandro Barrera, and Shea Salinas joined by capable part-time wide players Tommy Thompson, MPG, and Innoccent Emeghara. There are far fewer barriers to Cato seeing the field if he drops farther back.
This isn't an ideal time to acquire talent, a long ways away from the off-season's drafts and not during an inter-league transfer window. However, it's not impossible to find solutions elsewhere, especially if the front office wants to see what they have in this current roster and wait to make moves until the summer transfer window. As such, now is a good time to publish my little spreadsheet of Quakes salaries that I use to try to figure out their personnel strategy in times like these when there isn't any easily-accessible information out there.
MLS's roster rules and transactions are opaque and, even on their own website, sometimes mutually contradictory. My spreadsheet is based on my best knowledge of MLS rules, combined with all the publicly-known terms of the new CBA, which raises the cap to $3.5 Million and increase the minimum salary. It also includes six players (represented in italics) that have unknown contract details for this season and I have put in an extraordinarily rough guess as to their current deals. Finally, keep in mind that only the top 20 salaries are counted against the cap.
|Name||Position||2014 MLS Salary||2015 Cap Projection||Notes|
|Chris Wondolowski||ST||$650,000.00||$387,500.00||DP Cap Applies|
|Matias Perez-Garcia||CAM||$216,000.00||$387,500.00||DP Cap Applies, 2014 was pro-rated|
|Innoccent Emeghara||ST||N/A||$387,500.00||DP Cap Applies|
|Jean Baptiste Pierazzi||CM||$240,000.00||$240,000.00|
|Marvell Wynne||RB||$285,000.00||$200,000.00||Dispersal draftee, likely took a pay cut|
|Steven Lenhart||ST||$257,500.00||$180,000.00||Rumored pay cut in his new deal|
|Tommy Thompson||CAM||$145,000.00||$145,000.00||Homegrown player, not exempt from cap|
|Sanna Nyassi||RM||$154,625.00||$100,000.00||Dispersal draftee, likely took a pay cut|
|Leandro Barrera||LM||$50,000.00||$100,000.00||Impossible to predict due to opaque transfer|
|Fatai Alashe||CM||N/A||$85,000.00||No info, guess is based on draft precedent|
|Cordell Cato||RW||$50,400.00||$60,000.00||Raised to new minimum|
|Shaun Francis||LB||$57,889.00||$60,000.00||Raised to new minimum|
|Mike Fucito||ST||$60,639.00||$60,000.00||Raised to new minimum|
|Adam Jahn||ST||$48,500.00||$60,000.00||Raised to new minimum|
|JJ Koval||CM||$48,500.00||$60,000.00||Raised to new minimum|
|Bryan Meredith||GK||$36,500.00||$60,000.00||Raised to new minimum|
|Mark Sherrod||ST||$48,500.00||$60,000.00||Raised to new minimum|
|Paulo Renato||CB||N/A||$60,000.00||No info, guess is minimum or not far above it|
Cap Space based on this projection: $80,272.44.
The first thing to note is that releasing Bradon Barklage (who made $68,415.21 last year) only saves a little over eight grand in cap space due to the top 20 rule, so it's almost certain that wasn't the primary motivation. However, due to that same rule, any salaries taken on will only add to the cap hit to the marginal extent they go beyond the $60,000 minimum salary, meaning the Quakes could sign a single player worth up to $140,000 a year in addition to any minimum players (who wouldn't count against the cap) they use to fill out the roster. This is absolutely a realistic possibilty, and I think the front office will assess both the roster needs and competitive position before determining where to spend that money.
The other potential here (not mutually exclusive with the first) is to use allocation money ("Garber Bucks") to buy down space below the cap. Allocation money rules are complicated, and the amounts are never made public, so we're more or less shooting in the dark trying to guess about it. However, we know the Quakes picked up an unknown amount of allocation money in the Alan Gordon and Sam Cronin trades and for missing last year's playoffs. They also spent $150,000 in allocation money to acquire the third DP slot used on Emeghara. If the money they received was greater than $150,000, they could buy yet more space below the cap, or use the dollars as an asset in a trade to upgrade a lagging position from another MLS team (the same way we received the funds).
One important takeaway here is that the owners are anything but cheap. They spent heavily on an international transfer for a DP last summer, they spent on a DP this offseason, and they're running very close to the cap with a relatively large roster this time around. I know a lot of fans think that owner Lew Wolff has imported his cheap ways from the A's, but this evidence seems to dispute that.
So, commentariat, what are your thoughts? How will the Quakes shape their roster-in-progress this season?