On Saturday, Tim Bezbatchenko took to the radio waves to give an update on the latest news surrounding Toronto FC. He joined Gareth Wheeler of TSN 1050 for a short interview updating a number of matters but the main take away is the updates that he provided on Matias Laba.
One thing is clear, that nothing is yet resolved when it comes to Laba and the club continues to explore all of their options with what to do with the player who is currently their 4th Designated Player. The club have until March 1st to be roster compliant which will mean having to find a way to reduce their number of DPs down to 3 with Laba the odd man out.
When talking to Wheeler on TSN radio, Bezbatchenko sounded quite confident with the current roster that the club has assembled. "We like where we are at right now. I think it is a situation where you are always looking to improve in every position, you are looking to add depth, but on paper we like what we have now. Over the next few weeks when preseason really gets going down in Florida, we are going to Sarasota on Sunday, you'll have an understanding of where you are at in each position so if we need to tweak it or if we need to make some changes we can do that heading into the March 1 roster compliance date."
It is almost a completely foreign idea for Toronto to be opening training camp with a roster that seems to be almost completely settled. They will likely have to make a few more moves but they won't be stuck scrambling at the last minute to bring in half of a starting lineup like we saw last season.
When asked about certain areas that they feel the need to continue to strengthen Bezbatchenko replied, "Not necessarily, I think we need to take a step back and evaluate. I think we have added players to each line. We obviously re-signed Joe Bendik and he is under a new contract and then we have added Bradley (Orr) and Justin (Morrow) to the backline. In the midfield we have Jackson who can play both midfield and defence and then obviously Michael Bradley. Up top we have Gilberto, Defoe, Dwayne De Rosario so we have really increased depth in all positions, in all areas, so right now we just need to take stock of where we are at."
All of those additions around the field have come with a cost but it seems that the club remain in good position in terms of the actual salary cap. "We have still some room on the cap, it's a little bit different because the way it is structured you have roughly 3.1 million for 2014 and then you have three players, what we call Designated players, that are on a budget charge of approximately 390,000," said Bezbatchenko. "So they take up, each one, about 12.5% and then everything above that the team owner is responsible for. So every team has the flexibility with those three players and then the rest of our roster you have to fit, at least the 1-20 that we call our senior roster, has to fit in under that 3.1. So we have some room, there is also some of what we call allocation which is basically additional cap space to work with, so we are sitting in a good place. We still have the flexibility to make some changes if needed."
As the GM's brief lesson into the way the league's salary cap works pointed out there is one flaw with the current roster. Toronto FC have four designated players currently on the books when the league's rules only allow for them to carry three beyond March 1st.
"It is coming along nicely," said Bezbatchenko when asked about working out a solution for their fourth DP, Matias Laba. "I have sat down with Matias and explained what out options are and I am continuing to work with the league office to figure out what our options are. It is not exactly laid out in specific terms, we have a couple things that we are looking at including keeping him but there is an inter-league loan, there is trades, there is loans outside the league, and there is transfers outside the league. So we have four or five options that we are looking at right now. He understands it, we are really trying to work him in but a midfield or Bradley and Matias would be formidable and would be one that everyone would be scared of I think in the league. At the same time he also understands that there are roster rules and limitations."
When asked about the likelihood of Laba staying the GM replied, "I think right now we are just laying out the options, we are trying to get clearance from the league office and guidance from the league office on some of that so we just have to wait and see."
The interview also addressed Richard Eckersley with Bezbatchenko offering little on the matter by replying, "Richard was on a high number and we had to determine whether or not that made sense for our roster this year and we just figured that it didn't. So we are looking at options with Richard but I am not going to speak to what the options are or where we are heading with that right now."
Towards the end of the interview Bezbatchenko also confirmed that Issey Nakajima-Farren is in camp with the club now and they will see if there is a role that he can fill with the club. He also indicated that they do not plan to bring in a lot of trialists this season as they have a fairly set roster heading into camp.
From all of what the GM had to say you get the sense that the rumours around the club are going to slow down now with the roster nearly full and it will be about deciding what to do with the players that they currently have in camp. It is certainly refreshing to know that TFC are looking at trimming and tweaking their roster during camp rather than scrambling to build it like in years past.
It is also refreshing to hear that the club continues to do everything they can to find a way to keep Laba. They clearly see that he has value to the team and are not interested in just dumping him off because they signed three shiny new DPs. They may not be able to keep him in the end but at least this way no one can accuse them of not doing their due diligence on the matter.
It sure does feel nice to have a GM who is able to articulate his plans and actually sound like he knows what he is doing.