Making Note of Interesting MLS Moves: Brandon McDonald

We’re going to see a lot of people forever reference a term for finding something undervalued relative to what it provides. Such moves in sports are often spun off as “moneyball” type moves. I love the idea of finding undervalued assets, things that can have their production used in a manner which it benefits someone who actually needs it. The problem is most of the time when people refer to something as “moneyball” it’s mostly just butchering the term or passing off a sale for the sake of either saving face or trying to sound semi-intelligent about an acquisition. It just seems to be an overused term in sports today and it has started to defeat the principle of the idea.

And then there is this...

“The basic premise of ‘Money Ball’ is that you try to acquire undervalued assets,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “We’ve had a long track record of picking up pieces that other people don’t want anymore and cultivating their talents, and that’s a credit to our coaching staff and the guys in our locker room who believe in our system.”

Garth Lagerway, the current General Manager of Real Salt Lake, is explaining why he just worked out a deal with the worst team in the league for a player they just benched. The narrative delivered by the Salt Lake press is rather uninteresting and all together doesn’t matter. What is interesting, at least to me, is the outlook for an RSL team that has sought to add depth to their weakness. While being a club that has been pretty much on par with teams like the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders in terms of allowing shots, they’ve been outstanding preventing those opportunities from turning into goals. You could of course point to Nick Rimando, but also Josh Saunders who worked a shut out of his own against FC Dallas this past weekend.

However, no amounts of Saunders and Rimando are going to help the Lakers keep up with that rate. The only way they can be assured of limiting future goals is by limiting future attempts. Enter Brandon McDonald, formerly of the last place DC United, who was owed approximately 275K at the start of this season. He’s hardly a “money ball” type buy. But a couple points have been mentioned. Lagerway surrendered basically nothing very little (third-round pick (2014) and a conditional choice (2015), neither of which should have much, if any impact to the United and their chances at fielding a competitive team next season) in order to acquire someone who was instrumental in enabling his club to make a late second half run into the playoffs last season.

I’m sure our own DCU season ticket holder, Drew, and others can speak more to how well he’s performed this season. The standards set by Squwaka have him ranked as the #71 overall defender (among all defenders) with a performance score an even 150, though sorted purely by defensive score he ranks 57th overall with a score of 93. Turning to the other side of the analytical coin; Whoscored ranks him as the #2 best performer with a rating of 7.02 and leading the team in defensive actions and more specifically block shots.

Okay, so comparing him to his peers, he’s probably not “worthy” of being a bench guy on the last place team. But is he worth the 100+ thousand dollars that RSL will owe him this season on the rest of his contract. The answer is surprising. According to a couple of anonymous sources and general digging, it appears that Real Salt Lake may have a solid collection of allocation money saved for a rainy day and possibly used to pay down McDonald’s salary. Now, we don’t know much about allocation money, and the amounts that teams have are a well-guarded secret. But I was told that they planned on using a small amount on McDonald and now suddenly his salary isn’t so influential on the salary cap.

This is an interesting move and one that could go either way, good or bad. I’m not sure I would call this a “moneyball” move. But it’s certainly interesting and it’s something that I think you’ll see more of as teams fall away from the pack. It’s expensive to find players outside of the league, and many teams are in a state of transition (Seattle, for one) and do not necessarily have all the finances usually afforded them. Buying low or taking advantage of players that teams are ready to sell on—but can still be useful to your team—is always a smart business practice. I guess that kind of would qualify as a “undervalued asset”.

Right there, I made my own skin crawl.


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