With their MLS Cup final defeat still fresh in the mind, Toronto FC got to work on their 2016-17 offseason on Monday morning.
The club has announced that they will not exercise contract options (that is, automatic contract extensions) on Daniel Lovitz, Chris Mannella, Benoit Cheyrou and Clement Simonin. Quillan Roberts, Ashtone Morgan, Will Johnson and Josh Williams, meanwhile, are also out of contract at the end of the year.
For Lovitz, Mannella and Simonin, this likely signals the end of the road with TFC. They were all signed to minimum $63,000 contracts in 2016, meaning this is about as cheap as they get; there is no chance of Tim Bezbatchenko being able to bring them back on new, reduced terms unless Mannella is signed to the reserve roster, where the minimum goes down to $51,500. Lovitz and Simonin are too old to qualify for that.
Cheyrou’s situation, however, is a little different. His guaranteed compensation was recorded as $259,333 earlier this season, but mysteriously dropped to $159,333 in the latest numbers released in September. What exactly was behind that is unclear, but it could be something to do with performance-related pay; Cheyrou made only 14 appearances in the regular season due to injury problems.
Whatever figure applies for 2017, it’s probably a little higher than TFC would like for someone who has become more of a useful substitute than a starter, particularly when compared to Jay Chapman’s $93,500 or Marky Delgado’s $102,500. It could be, then, that Cheyrou is offered a new deal on lesser terms, with Kurtis Larson of the Sun indicating that could be the case.
Expect Toronto FC to renegotiate deals for Cheyrou and, perhaps, Johnson, who is interested in staying in Toronto.— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) December 12, 2016
It probably becomes a lifestyle choice for Cheyrou at this point; leaving Toronto likely means retirement, so if he plans to stick around in Canada he may be willing to settle for a reduced salary and role as he begins to consider his post-playing options.
As for Toronto’s out-of-contract players, it is not impossible to imagine them all being re-signed. The least likely is Josh Williams, who is 28 and has a few seasons of MLS experience under his belt but has fallen to fourth-choice among Toronto’s centre-backs. With Bezbatchenko likely to seek a new signing in that position, he could be pushed even further down the pecking order. Williams earned $131,250 in 2016, more than Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund.
Bezbatchenko will almost certainly be talking with Johnson, who played a key role in the club’s run to the MLS Cup final. In an ideal world Toronto would love to bring the Canadian back, but the complication is he was their top non-DP earner on $395,333 and fell out of the starting lineup for much of the playoffs following the arrival of Armando Cooper and the switch to a three-man midfield. If Johnson is willing to negotiate down to stay north of the border, there is a deal to be done. If not, the pending free agent is likely to have options elsewhere in MLS.
Morgan and Roberts, like Williams, are not free agents but eligible for the re-entry draft. There is every chance Roberts could be back as third-choice goalkeeper on his $63,000 deal and Morgan could return too, though TFC may want to bring down his $132,000 salary given his lack of first-team games of late and Justin Morrow’s reliability.
Toronto have exercised options on Clint Irwin, Alex Bono, Drew Moor, Hagglund, Zavaleta, Mark Bloom, Jonathan Osorio, Cooper, Chapman, Tsubasa Endoh, Tosaint Ricketts, Jordan Hamilton and Mo Babouli. No real surprises there.
Morrow, Steven Beitashour, Michael Bradley, Delgado, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore are already under contract. That leaves the confirmed roster (pending a potential loss to the expansion draft) looking like this:
Goalkeepers: Bono ($85,200), Irwin ($107,625).
Right-backs: Beitashour ($244,000), Bloom ($101,848).
Left-backs: Morrow ($216,666).
Centre-backs: Zavaleta ($124,100), Moor ($250,000), Hagglund ($63,000).
Right midfield: Endoh ($51,500).
Left midfield: None.
Central midfield: Bradley ($6,500,000), Osorio ($174,570), Cooper ($193,333), Delgado ($102,500*), Chapman ($93,500).
Strikers: Giovinco ($7,115,555), Altidore ($4,825,000), Babouli ($51,500), Hamilton ($78,650), Ricketts ($81,333).
*The terms of the new contract Delgado signed for 2017 have not yet been released.