What? You'd rather have a stinking draft pick than Moi?
It is a phrase linked to former General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Cliff Fletcher. Those two words have come to symbolize a franchise that reportedly seeks short term gain while giving up on the idea of building a stable of talent through the draft.
Is Toronto FC following the blueprint laid out by their corporate cousins?
Late Friday evening, Toronto FC acquired Eric Hassli from the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for Toronto's 1st Round Pick in the 2014 MLS Superdraft and their International Roster spot through 2013. Jason de Vos indicated that Hassli appears to be on a 1 year contract with a club option for 2013. That means that he is a Red for the 14 remaining MLS games of 2012, at least the Group CCL stage, and perhaps then again in 2013.
Not quite a rental but not far from it.
From a soccer standpoint, the move makes sense for both clubs. Mark Weber of the Province wrote about Hassli's potential to be shipped out on July 4th. In his article, he wrote:
Rennie's 4-3-3 system, which defensively looks more like 4-5-1, demands plenty of running up top, and Hassli covers far less ground than Sebastien Le Toux or Mattocks. That's part of the reason why Hassli's seen so few starts.
It should thus leave no doubt that Mariner has shifted gears and abandoned the vision that the club tried to sell in 2011. He isn't now merely seeking to find a system to fit his players as he originally stated, but rather is actively finding players to suit his different vision. However, you can't blame a man for trying to do things his way. Hassli is a player that concerned me as a fan when he lined up against us and in this new, basic system that Mariner relies on, he could certainly contribute. Essentially a more fit, more skilled version of Colorado's Conor Casey. Big question is to what benefit is it to TFC to make this move?
There is little expectation that TFC can qualify for a playoff spot. Therefore, that leaves the CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage as Hassli's proving grounds. If Koevermans returns for 2013, TFC may go forward with two strikers but that would conceivably still leave a CB spot open. If not, it is likely to assume that the club option on Hassli would not be picked up. But then again, you never know. A Hassli-Koevermans combination would certainly be interesting to see.
Regardless, the price paid is conceivably higher than most fans might realize. Giving up the International slot is risky as those are where the better players should come from. That said, we don't really scout all that well and were recently considering using that slot on a back up keeper (maybe still are). Nothing really to sweat there.
The 1st round pick could hurt though. The MLS Super Draft operates much like the NHL draft in that order of finish determines reverse order of draft. If you finish last, you generally pick 1st, assuming there has been no expansion in that year. If this is news to you, that's ok. It's not well covered and certainly not well understood by the average fan. Outside of TFC Academy, it is the primary source for acquiring young players. It is certainly the prime vehicle for acquiring US Domestic players, which are like gold in the currency that are the MLS Roster Rules.
A lot of big names have come through that Superdraft like Brek Shea, Will Bruin, Teal Bunbury, Chris Pontius and others. Notable TFC selections have included Luis Silva (2012), Sam Cronin (2009), Stefan Frei (2009) and Maurice Edu (2007).
However, trading away the 1st round pick in 2014 will mean that TFC, despite pretty horrible finishes, will have only been to the draft table twice in five drafts since 2010. Toronto traded its first round pick in 2010 for Adrian Serioux and then again in 2011 for Nathan Sturgis. Baring a trade, they won't be picking again in 2014.
The real caution here is that If Hassli ends up being a rental in a season without results, this could be TFC's version of reacquiring Wendel Clark in a package for a 1st round pick that turned out to be Roberto Luongo.
We have to trust that those in charge know what they are doing. Don't we?