MLS today released the lists for the league's first ever free agency along with the list of players that will be available for Friday's first stage of the re-entry draft.
Twenty-six players are eligible for free agency and are free to negotiate with any team. Players must be at least 28 years old and have played in the league for at least eight seasons to be eligible for free agency, one Sporting KC player is included in that list this year, midfielder Paulo Nagamura. In 2015, Nagamura made $230,000 according to the players union numbers released this year, which is $10,000 more than he'd made in 2014, but still below his $265,000 he made back in 2013. Nagamura though turns 33 next season, and while he's played at least 17 games in all four seasons he's played with KC, questions certainly have to start creeping in about how much longer he can play at the level he has played at, and if he's worth $230,000. For me I'd love to keep Nagamura, but I'd like to see him take a bit of a pay cut to help build the team up further.
If KC wanted to be active in the free agency market, there are some different paths that KC could go to address some needs this offseason. One area that KC needs to address in goalkeeper, where KC only has two at the moment, and one, Jon Kempin, is out of contract and may not be back. Even if Kempin is back most people want him to spend the season on loan with the Swope Park Rangers getting regular playing time. That would still leave a spot for a back up for Tim Melia. There are a couple experienced goalkeepers KC could look at on the free agent market if they wanted to, Jon Busch and Troy Perkins. Busch would likely be the cheaper of the two options, as he made just $85,000 last year according to the union numbers, but his issue is that he turns 40 during the 2016 MLS season. As for Perkins, he'll turn 35 in 2016 and made $130,000, not an amount I'd want to see Kansas City paying on a back up goalkeeper even if the goalie will be getting time next season in the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. Both would be able to fill the back up role for Kansas City if this was a route KC wanted to go, Busch has played over 300 MLS games and recorded 83 shutouts in that time frame. Meanwhile Perkins has played about 100 fewer games, but has recorded over 50 shutouts himself.
Robb Heineman has had fun with free agency starting, throwing out two names on Twitter as recruiting targets, naming Montreal Impact midfielder Justin Mapp and Chicago Fire forward Mike Magee. Mapp didn't play much in 2015 for the Impact, fracturing his elbow in the season opener against DC United, he was limited to just five games in 2015. In his career Mapp has recorded 65 assists, just over four a season for his career. He'd provide some attack down the wing and some further creativity. His salary, just over $185,000 isn't that bad either and he'd provide an upgrade over the likes of Bernardo Anor, Connor Hallisey, and Jacob Peterson on the wing. The issue is does he bring enough to the team.
As for Magee, if KC wanted to target him, I'd assume he'd need to take a pay cut as he made $400,000 in the 2015 season. Like Mapp, Magee is coming off an injury shortened 2015 season where he only contributed two assists to the Fire attack. This is two seasons after being the league MVP in 2013, scoring 21 goals while splitting time with the Fire and LA Galaxy. Right now I'd prefer Dom Dwyer in that starting forward spot, so unless the price is right for Magee salary wise a move for him doesn't make a lot of sense.
The thought of Magee that I do like in terms of free agency is getting a reserve striker. This was an area that KC really struggled with last year, a spark off the bench. There are a few guys that KC could at least look at, all have been regular goal scorers in the league, but may be a little expensive. The likes of Edson Buddle, 300 games played, 100 goals scored, made $100,000 in 2015, but turns 35 next year is available. Another forward that could be an option that's a little younger is Chad Barrett. Barrett turns 31 next season, he's scored 56 goals in just over 250 games played in his career. He scored five goals for Seattle last year, making $95,000 starting just nine games. So there are some options there for KC to go after if they wanted to find some striker depth.
As for the re-entry draft, that's an area that KC has never really used under Peter Vermes, in the five previous re-entry drafts, KC has taken a total of one player, none since the first draft in 2010 and none in the first phase of the draft. If there's a player that Vermes has wanted in the draft he has usually worked out a deal with the players current club to acquire him via trade before the draft. And while the 2015 re-entry draft probably has the most talent of any draft so far it wouldn't surprise me again if Vermes either does his business early or does no business at all.
The first decision that Vermes will have to make is on one of KC's players in this year's re-entry draft as Seth Sinovic is out of contract and available for the draft. After suffering through a concussion in the middle of the season Sinovic came back and regained his starting spot last season, but didn't seem to be fully back from the injury. The questions is whether a full offseason would see him come back at the level he was. Sinovic and KC have until late afternoon on Thursday to make a decision. Based on past experience where Sinovic was ready to retire instead of going to KC that could turn teams off of looking at taking Sinovic in the draft.
While there are some interesting choices available in the first phase of the re-entry draft; Tommy Meyer for some center back depth, Matt Lampson as a back up goalkeeper option, and Marco Pappa as an attacking option, I think that Vermes and Kansas City are going to stick to their regular process during the first phase of the re-entry draft. If there's a player they want they'll make an early trade and not wait to see if he falls to KC at the 11th spot.