Paul Mariner says Toronto FC is only a few players away from a decent team and his sidekick, Earl Cochrane agrees. Estimates from Earl suggest that they are about 8-9 players away. Let's set aside the worrying question of just how many of those 8 or 9 are needed for the starting eleven, let's instead focus on something else.
Where are these 8-9 guys going to come from?
Under MLS Roster rules, teams are allowed a maximum of 6 discovery signings in a given season. You can sign Designated Players without that counting as a discovery signing but Mariner says he expects all 3 designated players back next season. That leaves us a few guys short. Though, after listening to some of Mariner's comments, 'the best finisher of the modern era' 'sensational' 'the best we've played in a long, long time' etc, you probably have your own favourites, I've learned to dial down Paul's expectations just a wee smidge.
With only 6 discovery signings possible, leaving aside the draft or academy promotions which are unlikely to bring immediate dividends beyond depth, that leaves TFC with the option of waiver drafts and trades to achieve the goal of 8-9 new players. Let's be frank, waivers generally represent someone else's cast off. Trades? Now here is where a team might be able to make a difference. Notice I said "a team" not necessarily "our team?" I did this because with apologies to the Most Interesting Man in the World, Toronto FC doesn't always trade within the MLS but when they do, they prefer to get hosed.
At least that is how it plays out.
There are reasons for this. Partly because under MLS Roster rules, Canadian players count as Internationals for US based clubs. It makes trading extremely difficult, as that Canadian player being offered has to be worth taking up the other team's international spot. As a result, only 9 Canadians play in the USA. Of course, the concept of stocking your team with largely untradeable assets is a roster-building mistake on its own but that is another blog.
What that means is that TFC either has to make like for like trades or trade the future for a player that it can use now. Of course, they are also able to trade veterans for draft picks but with 7 coaches in 6 seasons, who has time to think about the future? That's another coach's problem.
With this entry I wanted to take a look, some might even call it an objective look, at some of the best and worst trades that TFC has orchestrated in its history. I'll tell you what went down and why I classed it as I did. I'm sure you have your own and I invite you to share in the comments section. Here we go:
(2008) Toronto receives 1st Round MLS Superdraft Pick (Sam Cronin) and Allocation Money from San Jose for midfielder Ronnie O'Brien
In what was a rare moment of trading a veteran for a draft pick, Mo Johnston selected a very good young player who played over 33 games in Toronto and still enjoys a decent MLS living. We did eventually trade Cronin for nothing but more on that below. O'Brien had a shortened 2007 season in Toronto due to an injury. He retired at the end of the next season after a contract squabble with the Quakes.
(2008) Toronto trades its Allocation Spot (Brian McBride) to Chicago for 1st Round MLS Superdraft Pick (Stefan Frei) and Chad Barrett
Mo did well here in trading from a position of weakness. McBride wanted to return to MLS and was very specific about his desire to play in Chicago. In selecting Frei with the draft pick, TFC enjoys a very solid GK to this day. Barrett's career here wasn't overly impressive though he did rack up 45 appearances for the team and has 40 career MLS goals to his name.
(2008) Toronto trades Julius James and Allocation Money to Houston for Dwayne De Rosario
Mo landed a "home town boy" that eventually divided the fan base. That said, before writing air cheques and threatening to hold out, he produced many positive memories such as the Miracle in Montreal (6-1) and is a regular contributor to the CMNT. James is a solid defender but I'd give the edge to Toronto for getting the more impactful player in the swap
(2007) Toronto gave up its 2008 1st Round Superdraft pick (Brek Shea) and allocation money for mid-fielder Richard Mulrooney.
Who? Yeah. Mulrooney had a decent MLS career but only played 2 games for Toronto before being traded to Houston. Following "Trader Mo" along his next steps is a bit of a challenge. Mulrooney was shipped out for a 1st Round Pick and Kevin Goldthwaite. After 9 games, Goldthwaite was then swapped for Todd Dunivant who was ultimately moved for Allocation money. That 1st Round pick was swapped for Jeff Cunningham. Cunningham struggled here, as many do, and was ultimately swapped for a 3rd round pick... he then went on to win the MLS Golden Boot. The net effect here? Brek Shea for Allocation money and a 3rd round pick. Any takers?
(2010) Toronto acquires Nathan Sturgis from Vancouver in exchange for 1st Round MLS Superdraft pick
Said Earl Cochrane at the time of his only deal, "we are very happy to be able to bring Nathan (Sturgis) to the club. He is a player who will be able to make an immediate impact in our team next season, but is also young enough to play a role here in the long term. We studied the options that would likely be available to us with our first round pick in the MLS SuperDraft and made the decision that the addition of Nathan is of greater benefit to our squad."
TFC traded the pick to Vancouver who took Michael Nanchoff. Also available at the time of Vancouver's selection was Will Bruin, CJ Sapong and Michael Farfan. Sturgis appeared in just 14 games for Toronto before being dealt to Houston for a Conditional Draft Pick in 2014. Talk about depreciating value. Looks like you needed to do more studying Earl.
(2010) Sam Cronin traded to San Jose for Allocation money
At the time, Cronin was just 24 years old and had 72 MLS games under his belt. He has gone on to add 67 more for San Jose. How much cash is a serviceable midfielder worth? Not enough apparently
(2011) Toronto trades Dwayne De Rosario to New York for Tony Tchani, Danleigh Borman and a 1st Round Superdraft Pick (Aaron Maund)
I actually considered calling this one a wash. Toronto wasn't dealing from a position of strength and DeRo essentially called his shots in terms of where he would go. To get Tchani, a Generation Adidas player with no cap hit, a 1st round draft pick and a depth player, Aron Winter did reasonably well with the mess he inherited.
That said, after 13 games in Toronto, Winter dealt Tchani to Columbus for Andy Iro and Leandre Griffit. At the end of the day, the only player still with TFC as of today is Aaron Maund. DeRo for Maund? Yeah, that didn't work out so well regardless of what you think of him as a leader, captain and player.
(2012) Toronto trades is 2014 1st Round Superdraft pick for Eric Hassli
Hassli was to be a "free agent" in the offseason, as he did not factor into Vancouver's plans. Yet when Danny Koevermans was injured, a now-panicking Paul Mariner opted to trade a high draft pick for him anyways. Injured at the time of the deal he is now injured again at the time of writing this article. He has played a grand total of 491 mins for Toronto who gave up the future to win now. In the most important game of the season against Santos Laguna, Hassli played just 45 mins.
The idea of giving up a high draft pick for a Designated Player seems absurd when you can essentially just sign them. Are strikers really that hard to find? Well, maybe if you trade 1st round picks they are, right Mr Brek Shea? Hassli may be back next year or he may move on. If a contract can be renegotiated, ideally at less then DP status as some have suggested is a possibility, this trade may look a whole lot better. Whether that happens or not, what was the hurry?
So, those are my best and worst. I'd love to hear yours.