With the first-ever MLS Free Agent class released to the world, there's a chance that some teams will look to sign wily MLS vets (or Eric Avila) through a mechanism that actually makes sense. While they do that, TFC can steal a few great players out of the re-entry draft, and strengthen a few positions of weakness heading into the 2016 season, maybe even grab a free agent of their own. I'm sure they'll find a way to mess this up, but here's what I put on Tim Bezbatchenko's desk.
Goalkeeper - Tally Hall
Tally Hall is a good shot stopper, decent distributor and better commander of his box than any TFC keeper recently placed between the sticks. At 30, and given his trouble with injuries last season, it might seem like an unwise decision when Toronto have nobody truly ready to deputize, but maybe Hall has put his injuries behind him. Prior to the injury at the end of the season last year, he made 130 appearance for Houston in 5 seasons - and was named an All-Star for two of those seasons. At $215,000 base salary, its possible his option year isn't something TFC wants to bite on. If he's available in round 2, expect the Reds to snap him up. Consolation Pick- Zac MacMath, Troy Perkins (Free Agent)
Right Back - Steven Beitashour
Beitashour, an Iranian International, is exactly the kind of player TFC need to play up the flank. He's good with a cross, though not prone to getting caught too far up the pitch. He's a willing runner in both directions, and has been a consistent performer since his days in San Jose (where he shared the backline with Justin Morrow). The catch here is that Beitashour's 2015 salary is a hearty $190,000, and his option year is likely well in excess of that. If TFC can make the finances work, he'd be a great pickup. Consolation Picks: Kevin Alston, Lovel Palmer
Centre Back - Chris Schuler, Jermaine Taylor
The RSL man is a force - rising through the ranks with the RioT boys during the Jason Kreis era - and being a consistent performer for them through the years. He provides an aerial threat offensively, is an excellent MLS-calibre CB, and has the best balance of age (28) and talent of any of the centrebacks on the Re-Entry List. Other candidates like Pa-Modou Kah (35) and Zach Scott (35) are too old to be reliable, while younger talents like Tommy Meyer (25) don't have the experience needed to organize a perpetually scrambling defense. Schuler seems up to the task, though the salary expectations of $165,000+ might seem like poor value.
Taylor, at 30, is coming towards the end of his MLS career. A Dynamo mainstay over the past few seasons, the Jamaican international is exactly the sort of organized, strong physical presence the Reds require. The downside, of course, is the high salary expectations of just over $203,000 in 2015, with an option year that will increase that as well. If available in round two, Taylor is definitely worth a look.
Other options are available in the Free Agent pool as well, with Drew Moor - an excellent organizer played out of position by Colorado - being available and able to negotiate a more reasonable figure than the astronomically high $270,000 in guaranteed compensation he received last year.
Central Midfield - Nick LaBrocca
Who would've thought Nick LaBrocca would ever fill a need for TFC again. But, the Reds could use a defensive-minded midfielder to pair up with Michael Bradley or Benoit Cheyrou. LaBrocca's first stint with TFC was mixed, but whose wasn't? LaBrocca isn't a perfect fit, but he's the best available in the Re-Entry draft or Free Agency. Nate Sturgis, another former Red, could fill that spot as well, though there have always been and will always be questions about his quality. Players like Ricardo Clark and Boniek Garcia have played in the middle as well, but are more box-to-box players than outright stoppers. Brian Carroll is available, but at
50 34, is another aging body to add to the training room. This may be an area to look outside of MLS, hoping for a Diego Chara, Matias Laba type.
Winger - Justin Mapp
Although Mapp is almost definitely going to sign with Sporting Kansas City, he would look fantastic in Red. I've been a fan of Mapp right through his Montreal days. He passes so well, plays well with the ball at his feet, has improved his work rate over the years, and is not nearly as one-footed as people make him out to be. He's like a slightly-faster Brad Davis, which everyone should want. Of course, if we want to keep Jonathan Osorio as a wide midfielder who tucks in tight, we could always keep Jackson (who I love with all my heart), who offers a bullish workrate, strong defensive instincts, and ten-plus shots a season from 35 yards or more. Jackson can also play right back in a pinch, just not against the Impact. Never against the Impact. Consolation Picks: Danny Cruz, Marco Pappa
Striker - Danny Mwanga
Hear me out before you say I'm crazy. While this would be a reclamation project for the ages, Mwanga actually offers something up front that we do not currently have in spades: Speed. There are other speedy forwards on these lists: Jason Johnson, Robbie Findley (heavens no), Chad Barrett, and Edson Buddle come to mind. Ok, so Buddle and Barrett aren't exactly great commodities in MLS any longer. Mwanga, at his manageable salary of $75,000, is our best bet. We can't afford Alan Gordon (and we have 2 aging strikers with decent strike rates and no hope of ever starting a game already), Barrett is never coming back (sorry Duncan), and I don't even half-like anyone else on these lists. Who I do like? Mwanga is ok, but I'd love to forgo the striker pick and instead sign Molham Babouli onto the big club, and maybe give Jordan Hamilton a few minutes on the field. TFC are so deep at striker it is nonsensical. Herculez Gomez and Luke Moore are sure-fire starters on a number of MLS clubs. TFC will not want for goals in 2016. So play the kids a little.
Whether all of this shakes out in reality is anyone's guess. I'd love to see some of these moves happen, but there are loads more options as well. Post your thoughts below on who TFC should pick up from the re-Entry draft, Free Agency, or whether we should just sign Ronaldo and Neymar and be done with it.