The 2013 MLS season is winding down which means it is time to start looking towards the offseason. Toronto FC was out of the playoff race months ago and recently saw their elimination made mathematically official so for the last few weeks the only thing the club had to play for was pride, the role of spoiler, and roster spots for next season. The last one being the most fun for those of us who love to speculate when watching the team play.
The offseason is now nearly upon us so it is time to debate who should be brought back for next season and who should be shown the door. TFC have already created a fair bit of cap space with their moves this season but with their grand plans to bring in several key additions this offseason they will likely need to shed more players first.
To try and get a picture of who will be back next season we will look at the current roster, their salary according to the latest Player's Union release, and break things down by position.
Joe Bendik (46,500.00): Toronto FC's starting goalkeeper has proven to be good value for his current salary and has performed well enough to keep Stefan Frei, arguable a more talented keeper, glued to the bench all season long. Would be a big shock not to see Bendik back as the club's number 1 keeper next season unless he demands a massive raise.
Chris Konopka (46,500.00): Was only recently acquired by the club from the Philadelphia Union and that move seemed to be made with an eye towards the future. His price is right for a career backup option which is what it looks like he will be for Toronto FC next season.
Stefan Frei (200,000.00): TFC's all-time appearance leader has seemingly made his final appearance for the club. His salary just does not line up with the fact that he has spent much of the past two seasons injured and found himself behind Milos Kocic last season and now Bendik on the depth-chart. A fresh start for the keeper at a new club is probably best for everyone involved.
Quillan Roberts (46,500.00): Since signing his home-grown contract Roberts has done little more than train with the first team, play for the reserves and occasionally sit on the bench. He has been with the team for over a season now and has yet to log a single minute. His price is right as a home-grown so it is hard to see the club cutting him loose but maybe a loan stint could be in store for the young keeper next season to help his development. It is a safe bet that he won't be more than the club's third choice keeper next season if he is around though.
Gale Agbossoumonde (53,166.67): He has made his blunders this season in TFC's defence but has been an adequate third choice CB for the most part. At this stage he still has a decent upside to his game at just 21-years-old and his salary is a good one for a depth player. Bringing him back next season to come off the bench and continue his development seems like a pretty safe bet.
Mark Bloom (46,500.00): TFC has plenty of question marks on the outside of their defence and one of them is Bloom. He is currently in on loan from the Atlanta Silverbacks so TFC would have to make a move to bring him back next season. If the club could bring him in at a good price from the NASL club he might be a good depth option but based on his first few outings for the MLS club he is not at the level needed to be a regular starter.
Steven Caldwell (89,999.98): The anchor of TFC's defence, the leader of the team, and the most important veteran presence are all reasons why Caldwell will no doubt be brought back next season. He has been one of the best additions made by Ryan Nelsen this season and has brought a much needed degree of stability to the back four. The only question about Caldwell moving forward is what his salary will look like next season. If it remains below 100k then he looks to be a good bargain.
Richard Eckersley (310,000.00): If the most important thing for TFC moving forward is to avoid bad contracts then Ecks is at the front of the line to be dumped. It is possible that he agrees to return to the club at a reduced rate next season but it would have to be a massive pay-cut for him to be good value compared to similar defenders in the league. For that reason I think TFC will be looking within MLS for a more affordable option while parting ways with the Englishman.
Jonas Elmer (131,488.20): If Elmer is unable to overtake Morgan for the starting spot at left back for the club then he suddenly jumps out as another bad contract. TFC can't afford to use international slots and over 100k of cap space on a player who is just going to wind up sitting on the bench. With Elmer being signed midseason chances are he has at least one more year on his contract but TFC would still have ways of shedding him if he fails to impress the rest of the season.
Doneil Henry (62,083.33): Even with the raise he got on his new contract Henry remains a good value for this club. He may not be the most reliable starting CB at this stage in his career but he has shown consistent improvement this season and should continue to develop in the coming years. TFC needs to value their domestic players to be competitive in MLS and Henry is one of the best they have.
Ashtone Morgan (72,000.00): It has been a very interesting season for Morgan. He seemed to have lost his way early in the year and was struggling to get included in the team as a result. Somewhere during the summer things seemed to get back on track though and he is once again the club's best option on the left side even managing to keep Elmer off the field. His development may have stalled but he still represents good value for the club as a home grown player.
Ryan Richter (35,125.00): When Richter actually managed to see the field this season he has been a decent player but never anything special. Could he be cheap depth for the team in 2014? Of course, but he could also be upgraded upon quite easily so his future with the club has to be in question.
Manuel Aparicio (35,125.00): The club's most recent signing out of the academy is one for the future and it is hard to imagine him not being kept around for a while. The biggest question for Aparicio is how the club intends to continue his development and if a loan could potentially be in store for the young Canadian next season.
Kyle Bekker (72,750.00): He certainly has not lived up to the hype that surrounded him during the combine and following the SuperDraft. His total lack of playing time since early in the season certainly has not helped his development. Bekker has shown some ability when playing for Canada this year that gives me hope for his future with TFC but he will still have to make some strides if he wants to earn a place in the first team next season.
Bobby Convey (215,000.00): The price is not exactly right for Convey but the MLS veteran has brought some needed quality to TFC's attack. He is 30 now so he does still have some milage left in him and could be a useful player to bring back next season but that price tag is the real sticking point. He has been okay for TFC this season but not 200k plus good.
Jeremy Hall (90,000.00): He took a pay-cut before this season and made the move from right back to the midfield and it seems to have worked out quite well for TFC. At his reduced rate and in his new role he is actually a good value and should continue to be so for the club next season. If TFC go with one defensive midfielder more often Hall would make a nice backup option for Laba.
Matías Laba (200,000.00): Laba will probably go down as the best signing that Kevin Payne managed to make during his short time as General Manager of the club. The Argentine has been a rock for TFC in the midfield and at 21-years-old he still has time before aging out of the young DP program. TFC will have two other DP slots to work with so I see no reason why they would want to get rid of Laba unless someone made them an offer they couldn't turn down.
Reggie Lambe (70,000.00): Lambe is not on a bad salary but with international roster spots being limited he does not seem to be the best use of one. When he is on his game is capable of being a serious attacking threat but the problem with Lambe is that those games were far to rare. That one-in-six description is far too fitting and the arrival of Rey seems to suggest his days are numbered.
Jonathan Osorio (46,500.00): The surprise player of the 2013 season came out of basically nowhere before joining TFC and is known as one of the more exciting young players in MLS. He will be with the team next season and hopefully well beyond that with the main question being just where the team winds up playing him moving forward should they sign a DP level attacking midfielder.
Alvaro Rey (204,450.00): That salary is eye catching even if Rey has impressed in his first few performances for the club. He has been good for TFC in recent weeks and looks to be a fairly significant upgrade on Lambe. Another summer signing which suggests he will have a contract for next year but he has a lot of work to do to prove he is worth that amount of cap space.
Darel Russell (109,874.96): Are friends of Jim Brennan as hard to get rid of as Jimmy B? If they are then I guess Russell will be back next season but if they aren't it seems unlikely that Russell will return. He is another player who costs too much to be a bench player and that is just what he is when Laba and Hall are both fit.
Michael Thomas (60,713.21): The midfielder was brought over from Sporting Kansas City earlier this season to provide depth and he has done just that. He has not seen a lot of the field for TFC but that is not a surprise. If TFC want to keep him around as depth moving forward the price is right. Would be a better option as the third choice DM than Russell at this point if TFC don't bring in anyone else.
Justin Braun (114,700.00): He has size, he has strength, and he has very little else. Braun showed promise early in his career back when he was with Chivas USA but has failed to deliver on that in recent seasons. His lack of control make him poor at holding the ball up and he doesn't have the ability to finish that you would like. Considering he is not cheap and under-performing it is hard to see him coming back next season.
Bright Dike (60,687.50): TFC traded Maximiliano Urruti away to bring in Dike which was more about keeping DP slots open than talent but it puts some added pressure on Dike. He has shown the ability to finish elsewhere in his career and certainly has plenty of size and strength. Dike is an interesting piece moving forward but still a bit of an unknown quantity. If TFC do land those DP attackers Dike would serve as some nice depth.
Robert Earnshaw (155,150.00): Early in the season Earnshaw seemed to be a revelation with his scoring but that has all but dried up in recent weeks. If he is not scoring goals it is hard to justify paying him his current salary but there is no way Earnshaw would take a major pay-cut on a deal he signed this summer. He could be back unless TFC signs upgrades on him but for now his future with the club seems a bit up in the air.
Danny Koevermans (1,663,323.33): The man can't seem to catch a break with injuries the past year. Every time he seems to be closing in on a comeback another injury pops up to sidetrack him. We could well have seen the last of him at TFC already as he seems likely to return to the Netherlands in the offseason. If he does come back to TFC it would be below the DP level which seems unlikely.
Emery Welshman (46,500.00): The other selection from TFC's much talked about SuperDraft. Like Bekker he has struggled to find minutes this season and has basically been an afterthought for much of the campaign. He is cheap enough to consider bringing him back and loaning him out next season but it is hard to really see him having a future with the club.
Andrew Wiedeman (65,000.00): Sure he has been finding the back of the net in recent weeks since getting the chance to play more but what role would he play next season if the club does succeed in bringing in the attacking reinforcements they keep talking about? The good news is that his salary is reasonable for a bench player which could see him wind up sticking around instead of someone more expensive like Earnshaw.
There are very few players on this roster who I would consider locks to return for next season. The ones that are most likely to be back are the guys that are on salaries that represent good bang for the club's dollar. The good news is that the club is in a good position to pick which players they bring back since there are very few guaranteed contracts on the books and the club has a lot of cap space.
If you were Tim Bezbatchenko or Ryan Nelsen which is the 28 players currently on the roster would you be bringing back next season?