These things are supposed to work themselves out, and then they didn’t.
No one knows exactly what happened behind the scenes, of course, but Raheem Edwards was traded to the Montreal Impact soon after Los Angeles FC had picked him up in Tuesday’s Expansion Draft and all we got from Toronto FC was a brief statement from general manager Tim Bezbatchenko.
“No matter how you work your protected list, we knew losing someone [in the Expansion Draft] was a possibility due to the depth of our roster,” Bezbatchenko said.
“Raheem is an exciting young player and even better person. We wish him all the best.”
And that was that.
Let’s map out what we do know about how this went down.
The first thing to note is that protected lists were only finalized on Sunday morning, which means the trade between LAFC and the Impact came together very quickly.
Montreal clearly took the initiative. “We have evaluated all available players in the Expansion Draft and we acquired a couple of players that will help improve the overall quality of the team,” said Adam Braz, the club’s technical director.
It’s not difficult to make the case for the continued absurdity of expansion drafts when an executive of a non-expansion club is making a shopping list, but that’s another story.
The Impact, anyway, took full advantage of what feels like an antiquated process: they identified a couple of players of interest that would be available to LAFC and tried to work out a deal while those players’ existing clubs couldn’t do anything to stop them.
That almost certainly happened before the draft was conducted. The selection of Jukka Raitala, for one, appeared designed for a trade and it is hard to imagine Montreal coming to the decision to move Laurent Ciman in the space of a couple of hours.
If that is the case, you would think Toronto would be aware of what was in the works before it actually happened on the basis that LAFC’s only interest is to accumulate as much value out of the draft as possible.
Playing two clubs off against each other is one way of doing that.
At Tuesday morning’s end-of-season interviews, though, neither Bezbatchenko nor Bill Manning gave off an impression that they knew, at that point, what was going to happen.
“There’s always a possibility [of a deal to re-acquire a player selected in the Expansion Draft], for sure,” Bezbatchenko said. “We want to keep this group together as much as we can. We'll just have to see, but there's certainly a possibility that could happen.
“Right now, there's no sort of agreement in place but certainly in the next 45 minutes [before the draft]… things happen quickly.”
Manning said Toronto had turned down a trade offer at the weekend that was an attempt to capitalize on their fear of losing a player for nothing.
“We did not want to be rushed into making a move to try to pick something up because we were afraid of who we would lose in the Expansion Draft,” Manning explained.
“We just said, ‘let’s let that play out and then we will do what we need to do based on that outcome’.”
Logic would suggest that offer concerned either a protected player - allowing Toronto to move Edwards onto the protected list - or Edwards himself.
So the probable timeline looks something like this:
On Sunday morning, Toronto received a trade offer for either a relatively important player or Edwards and decided to turn it down and expose Edwards instead.
At some point between Sunday morning and Tuesday afternoon, LAFC and Montreal worked out a deal to send Ciman to California in return for Raitala and Edwards, who would be acquired in the Expansion Draft.
Toronto, surely, were given an opportunity to outbid Montreal once that had happened - and perhaps a last one in the hour or two between the draft and the trade being put through - but could not come to an agreement with LAFC.
And so Edwards leaves for a chunk of compensatory general allocation money.
It’s possible, of course, that Bob Bradley and John Thorrington had their hearts set on the Ciman deal and TFC, as a result, never really had a chance of getting Edwards back at a reasonable price.
(My omniscient colleague James Grossi, by the way, pointed out that Thorrington was with the Chicago Fire when Toronto shook them down for Chad Barrett and a first-round pick in exchange for the position in the allocation order that would allow them to bring Brian McBride back to the United States. I like to think he’s held a grudge ever since.)
If that is the case, the only way Toronto could have avoided losing Edwards was not exposing him in the first place.
And - without leaning too much on the benefit of hindsight - I’m surprised that they did. My protected list was the same as the real one except for the fact that I included Edwards at the expense of Jonathan Osorio.
I’m still not sure Osorio, even after a superb performance in the MLS Cup final, would have been as appealing around the league. He’s more expensive, for starters, earning $200,000 in guaranteed compensation.
Edwards will likely get a pay rise on the dirt-cheap $53,000 salary he earned this year, but it won’t be to that level.
It has been suggested that Edwards would not have played much for a Toronto team that presumably plans to strengthen this winter, but I’m not so certain. Would another left-back have been on the shopping list if Edwards had stayed? Could he not see time in more attacking positions, too, if Toronto return to a back four?
And if minutes were going to be in short supply, is there not significant trade value there? Or even, perhaps, the potential for a sale outside of MLS?
Osorio has proven a great fit when Toronto add a fourth midfielder, but he is not a multi-purpose player who would slot in seamlessly on any team in the league. He’s very difficult to label, falling somewhere in between Marky Delgado’s box-to-box style and Victor Vazquez’s traditional playmaker.
As a 25-year-old, proven MLS player, there was not zero risk in exposing Osorio and losing him would have hurt - even more so than Edwards in the short term, with Benoit Cheyrou potentially retiring and Armando Cooper likely to leave.
But I just don’t see him as a can’t-miss pick that LAFC would have been crazy not to pounce on, or as shoppable to clubs like the Impact.
Edwards, to me, was probably the most obvious selection in the draft, regardless of whether or not LAFC had another exchange lined up.
The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know everything that went down here. It does feel, though, as if the club that has grown quite adept at dodging the punches thrown by the quirks of MLS has finally absorbed one.