Who Are The Best Players & Best Values in MLS Free Agency, Re-Entry

MLSBestValues-OTFsoccer-CF97

Evaluating players is a messy thing.  With MLS’s first Free Agency class now available for purchase and MLS’s yearly Re-Entry Round 2 Draft beginning tomorrow (Thursday, 12/17), it is worth looking at who’s available… and who’s worth being available.

I’m using the same data I’ve used previously to look at player performance: The OPTA-based Squawka rating system and MLS Player Salary information. (Note: I am not including goalkeepers in this report because backup goal keeper performance data is incomplete.)

Based on their average per-game Squawka performance over the last two seasons here are the best players available through Free Agency or through the Re-Entry draft:

Top 30 MLS Free Agents / Without Contract  (Last Update 12/16 4pm)

  1. Jeff Larentowicz – 27.40 – Free Agent
  2. Chris Schuler – 24.00 – Out of Contract
  3. Justin Mapp – 19.96 – Free Agent, Signed with SKC
  4. Marco Pappa – 19.75 – Opted Out of R-E, Traded to Colorado for $
  5. Drew Moor – 19.22 – Free Agent, Signed with Toronto
  6. Mike Magee – 17.72 – Free Agent
  7. Michel – 17.41 – Option Declined
  8. Ricardo Clark – 16.60 – Free Agent, Re-Signed with Houston
  9. Khari Stephenson – 16.48 – Free Agent
  10. Zach Scott – 16.36 – Opted Out of R-E
  11. Ned Grabavoy – 15.67 – Free Agent
  12. Jermaine Taylor – 15.60 – Option Declined
  13. Kwame Watson-Siriboe – 15.00 – Option Declined
  14. Brian Carroll – 14.23 – Free Agent, Will re-sign with Philadelphia
  15. Steven Beitashour – 14.19 – Opted Out of R-E, Signed with Toronto
  16. Vicente Sánchez – 13.32 – Option Declined
  17. Tommy Meyer – 13.00 – Out of Contract
  18. Jalil Anibaba – 11.36 – Option Declined
  19. Pa Modou Kah – 11.29 – Re-Signed (Vancouver)
  20. Andy Dorman – 11.11 – Out of Contract
  21. Hassoun Camara – 10.89 – Re-Signed (Montreal)
  22. Seth Sinovic – 10.74 – Re-Signed with Sporting Kansas City
  23. Boniek García – 10.48 – Re-Signed with Houston
  24. Ty Harden – 10.20 – Free Agent
  25. Lovel Palmer – 9.56 – Option Declined
  26. Jordan Stewart – 8.89 – Option Declined, re-negotiating with Quakes
  27. Bobby Burling – 8.75 – Free Agent
  28. Paulo Nagamura – 8.74 – Free Agent
  29. Danny Cruz – 8.58 – Option Declined
  30. Gabriel Torres – 8.38 – Option Declined

By itself, this ranking can be misleading.  What you don’t see here are the ages and relative health of the player which will greatly affect a team’s interest in a long term contract. Also missing (and a huge part of building a team) is what the player salary will be after contract negotiations.

 

Performance versus Salary Adjusted Value:

Based on Sounder at Heart’s Free Agency salary “ceilings” and the average renegotiation of Re-Entry salaries, below are the Top 30 Value Players. This was calculated by the indexed difference between their Sqwakwa score and indexed MLS Salary estimation:

  1. Marco Pappa – +98% – Opted Out of R-E, Traded to Colorado
  2. Jermaine Taylor – +82% – Option Declined
  3. Zach Scott – +80% – Opted Out of R-E (Retirement/Seattle may trade)
  4. Chris Schuler – +79%  – Out of Contract
  5. Khari Stephenson – +78% – Free Agent
  6. Kwame Watson-Siriboe – +64% – Option Declined
  7. Jeff Larentowicz – +63% – Free Agent
  8. Tommy Meyer – +54% – Out of Contract
  9. Justin Mapp – +45% – Free Agent, Signed with SKC
  10. Michel – +45%  – Option Declined
  11. Ty Harden – +35%  – Free Agent
  12. Michael Nanchoff – +29% –  Option Declined
  13. Brian Carroll – +29% – Free Agent, will re-sign with Philadelphia?
  14. Jeremy Hall – +17% – Option Declined
  15. Antoine Hoppenot – +13% – Option Declined
  16. Anthony Wallace – +11% – Option Declined
  17. Matt Watson – +10% – Out of Contract
  18. Andy Dorman – +10% – Out of Contract
  19. Nathan Sturgis – +10% – Free Agent
  20. Jalil Anibaba – +10% – Option Declined
  21. Ned Grabavoy – +10% – Free Agent
  22. Drew Moor – +9% – Free Agent, Signed with Toronto
  23. Lovel Palmer – +8% – Option Declined
  24. Steven Beitashour – +8% – Opted Out of R-E, Signed with Toronto
  25. Stephen Keel – +7% – Free Agent
  26. Seth Sinovic – +7% – Re-Signed with Sporting Kansas City
  27. James Riley – +3% –  Free Agent
  28. Pa Modou Kah – +0.2% – Re-Signed (Vancouver)
  29. Danny Cruz – -0.1% – Option Declined
  30. Chad Barrett – -2% – Free Agent

The “best value” list above assumes that a Free Agent will receive their MLS max-allowed salary increase. Based on previous years contract renegotiations,  players with near league-minimum salaries received a bump of ~20% and  Re-Entry Draftee’s contracts over $100k will reduce by ~20%.

 

Player Performance and Salary Visualization:

There is a huge difference between player performance and salary between when comparing Free Agents and Re-Entrants. It’s best represented in a scatter graph.  I’ve broken it up by position so it’s more legible, and included my adjusted value ranking as well.

Eligible Defenders

 

image (16)You’ll notice that only two of the MLS defenders available for acquisition were making above the league median salary and only one of them was performing at an above average rate. The most-desirable players on any of these scatter graphs are in the Top-Left i.e over-performing, underpaid players.  Here are all the defenders available that played above average soccer in 2014-2015:

  • Jermaine Taylor – (Available in Re-Entry) #2
  • Zach Scott – (Not available in Re-Entry) #3
  • Chris Schuler – (Available in Re-Entry) #4
  • Michel – (Available in Re-Entry) #10
  • Kwame Watson-Siriboe – (Available in Re-Entry) #13

 

Eligible Midfielders

image (17)

Note the difference in color here: no yellow (players whose options were declined) appearing above the median performance line.  Simply put: If you play above average soccer as a midfielder you will always have a place on an MLS team.   There are two red players here — players that have already re-signed, retired, or been traded (or have opted out of the Re-Entry process because one of those things will be happening).  The green guys are your Free Agents. Notice Ricardo Clark here, who played well recently, but is also considerably more expensive than a lot of other options at midfield. Here are all the midfielders available that played above average soccer in 2014-2015:

  • Marco Pappa – (Acquired by Colorado for Allocation Money) – #1
  • Khari Stephenson – (Free Agent) – #5
  • Jeff Larentowicz – (Free Agent) – #7
  • Justin Mapp – (Free Agent, Signed with SKC) – #9
  • Ned Grabavoy – (Free Agent) – #21 
  • Ricardo Clark – (Free Agent, Re-Signed with Houston) – #54

 

Eligible Forwards

image (18)

If you ever wondered how valued forwards are in MLS, here is your answer: Only one striker in the entire league that performed above average was made available this offseason.  That one striker is a very expensive Mike Magee.  Magee, with 2015 guaranteed salary of $467k this year, will have a Free Agency ceiling of $537k.  With his age, and moderately above-average performance, he’s just not a good value.  To find value at Forward we have to look towards players that met or exceeded their (often overpriced) salaries.  That includes:

  • Antoine Hoppenot – (Option Declined) #15
  • Chad Barrett – (Free Agent) #30
  • Charlie Rugg – (Option Declined) #36
  • Bright Dike – (Waived by Toronto)#38
  • Conor Casey – (Option Declined) #40
  • Maximiliano Urruti –  (Selected by FC Dallas in R-E Rd 1) #41

 

 

If you’re curious… here’s a scatter graph of all the 2015 Free Agents:

image (19)

 

One thought on “Who Are The Best Players & Best Values in MLS Free Agency, Re-Entry

  1. Pingback: Chicago Fire Offseason Player Movement | OTF Soccer

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