Word that Kevin Payne was on his way out at Toronto FC had barely broken before people began to speculate about a potential replacement for him as the clubs President and General Manager. One name that has popped up a fair bit in the early speculation is that of Garth Lagerwey who is the current Vice President and General Manager of Real Salt Lake.
His resume with RSL is nothing short of impressive and would certainly make him a strong candidate for the job. RSL were a last place team when he took over back in 2007 and have since turned into a club that is routinely making playoff appearances, going deep in the CONCACAF Champions league, and is in the conversation for trophies. Basically, in a little over 5 years he took RSL from a position similar to where Toronto FC currently sit to being one of MLS' model franchises.
Lagerwey was rewarded for his performance with the club in the fall of 2010 when he signed a new four-year contract. That contract would keep him with RSL until the end of the 2014 MLS season when most people assumed he would once again receive an extension. At just 40-years-old Lagerwey is one of the most promising executives in the league and has worked wonders on a limited budget in Real Salt Lake so it would be interesting to see how he would fare given the chance to move to a club with more resources at his disposal.
Not only did Lagerwey impress with the way that he built RSL's roster but he also turned heads this last offseason when he made some drastic moves in an effort to rebuild the team. He traded away Fabian Espindola, Jamison Olave, and Will Johnson in one offseason but the team is now in a position to compete for three trophies this season. That is the kind of rebuild that any sports GM would be envious of and established Lagerwey as not just a good GM in MLS but possibly a great one.
The resume is very strong and if MLSE were putting together a short list of candidates to make a serious push for there is strong case to be made for including Lagerwey at or near the top of that list. He would not come cheaply or easily though considering he still has a year remaining with RSL and seems to be content there. MLSE have the money though and could throw a pile of it his way to try and pry him away from RSL into what could be seen as a higher profile management position. One thing is certain, if he did come to TFC he would have a lot more money to work with when building his roster.
It is hard to imagine Lagerwey wanting to leave RSL with a year left on his current deal but the reason for TFC fans to be optimistic about the potential move actually comes from another MLSE franchise. When Tim Lewieke sat down and did his review of the Toronto Raptors following his arrival at MLSE he made the decision to remove Bryan Colangelo from his GM position despite his strong resume and replaced him with one of the top young GM's in the NBA. Leiwieke and MLSE made a very serious push to bring Masai Ujiri, the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year, over from the Denver Nuggets and succeeded in getting their man by signing him to a lucrative deal that was reported to be 15 million dollars over five years.
If MLSE is looking to do the same with Toronto FC then it is not unimaginable that they would make a push for Lagerwey that would include offering him the sort of contract that would be very hard for him to turn down. Ujiri did have previous connections to the Raptors which may have helped the club in attracting his services but at the end of the day in sports money talks and MLSE has a lot of that to work with.
It is all just speculation at this point and it is a safe bet that RSL will do everything in their power to keep their man but at the end of the day Lagerwey is just the kind of GM that MLSE need to be going after. The club is in need of someone who has had success in MLS, knows the league well, and is not a relic of a bygone era like Payne may well now be. Lagerwey would check all those boxes and should be near the top of everyone's list of potential candidates.
It will be interesting to see if TFC already has a replacement lined up or if other names will be linked to the job in the coming days but either way things are about to get very interesting around TFC, again.