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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Show him the money, Carlos Valdes edition

In recent weeks, the Philadelphia Union have not been shy about professing their admiration for Carlos Valdes, a player who has been an all-star in their ranks and who for a time wore the captain’s armband. As Valdes and his Colombia teammates prepares for a historic quarterfinal tie with Brazil Friday, the subject of Valdes’ potential return to the club which owns his rights is a hot topic in Philadelphia.
The possibility of a return to Philadelphia for defender Carlos Valdes,
here tussling with Japan Keisuke Honda in a World Cup Group C match
June 24, has been a popular conversation for the club in recent days. (AP)

Interim manager Jim Curtin weighed in on the matter Wednesday, detailing a number of the obstacles that stand between the Union and a reunion with Valdes, from within MLS and outside it.

Among the highlights from Curtin is the declaration that the Union, “would like to make him one of the top-paid center backs in the league,” while the skipper later allowed that the designated player avenue could be open to Valdes to come back in the league. (You’ll recall that the Union have two designated players under contract this season – Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana and definitely not Vincent Nogueira – giving them the flexibility to add a third.)

Let’s provide some context to that by looking at how Valdes’ compensation measures up league-wide.

First, the Union are on the hook for $295,000 for Valdes in the 2014 season, per the MLS Players Union, an amount deferred from the salary cap with the defender on a season-long loan. How much of that is actually paid to the player by the Union or what fraction is divvied up through San Lorenzo, the Argentine club he is on loan to, falls within the murky dealings of MLS. The last time Valdes suited up for the Union was in 2012, when his guaranteed compensation was $268,000.

So if the Union are determined to, as Curtin indicated, make Valdes an offer that significantly ups that amount to secure his services, what would that entail?

Well, it may be surprising that defenders are not terribly well compensated in relative terms in MLS. Based on April 2014 salary figures from the MLS Players Union, only one defender (No. 11 Omar Gonzalez at $1.25 million) ranks among the top 19 salaries. The only defender joining Gonzalez in the top 25 salaries is New England’s Jose Goncalves at $479,000, the 20th-highest-paid player. Gonzalez is the only defender with a (non-young) Designated Player contract, though Goncalves is the highest earner in the league not to be denoted as a DP. (Portland’s recent signing of English defender Liam Ridgewell adds a second DP, though his salary won’t be made available until August.)

Curtin was right in assessing Gonzalez’s salary as an outlier, but he felt comfortable appraising Valdes’ value in that second tier of defenders. Beyond Goncalves, here’s what that looks like:

Richard Eckersley, New York $373,333
Bakary Soumare, Chicago $370,000
Steven Caldwell, Toronto $364,167
Matteo Ferrari, Montreal $355,475
Clarence Goodson, San Jose $342,000
Carlos Bocanegra, Chivas $333,333
George John, Dallas $326,667
Michael Parkhurst, Columbus $300,000
Sean Franklin, D.C. United $298,333
Carlos Valdes, UNION $295,000
Adrian Lopez, Montreal $291,250
Jamison Olave, New York $290,000
Chad Marshall, Seattle $286,667
Marvell Wynne, Colorado $285,000
Aurelien Collin, Sporting Kansas City $281,250
Andy O’Brien, Vancouver $280,000

After O’Brien, there’s a wide gulf to Whitecaps teammate Jay DeMerit ($247,000) before a clustering of veteran defenders like Bobby Boswell, Drew Moor, Nat Borchers and former Union vice captain Jeff Parke. (While we’re on the subject of World Cup raises, might be good to mention that sizeable bumps in pay could be due to Columbus’s Costa Rican Giancarlo Gonzalez ($243,750) and Sporting Kansas City’s American Matt Besler ($200,000).)

So what does that mean for Valdes? Well before his supposed increase in stature with his successful South American sojourn, he was the 12th-most handsomely compensated defender in MLS. A significant raise, then, might break with the prevailing paradigm in MLS.

But let’s factor in age and consider value in return. Valdes is just four months older than Goncalves and six months older than Soumare. Of the 12 defenders (factoring in Ridgewell) ahead of him in pay, seven are older – Franklin 29, Ridgewell soon to be 30, Parkhurst 30, Goodson 32, Caldwell 33, Ferrari 34, Bocanegra 35. Among those younger, John seems perpetually injured.

If the Union were to up Valdes into the $350,000-ish range, they would be looking at paying Valdes like one of the top five defenders in the league. And the production relative to the others in that category, you’d have to say, would be decent return on the money.

The question then is what other offers are on the table. Surely anything over the $500k range (not the hypothetical $3 million Curtin offered Wednesday for conversation’s sake) would be unmatchable, given the Union’s fiscal limitations and the market value of defenders. Though something in that range – even after the cuts of the “third parties” and whoever else has been involved in the process is extracted – would still represent a solid piece of business for the club.

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