Chivas USA reinforced its oft-stated desire to think outside of the box by making its second controversial trade in the span of a week.
Philadelphia received the latest allotment of largesse from the Red-and-White when it sent reserve midfielder Gabriel Farfan to southern California on Tuesday. For its modest concession, the Union received the altogether disproportionate reward of Chivas USA's natural first-round draft pick in 2014 and an undisclosed amount of allocation money.
The trade only tangentially relates to how these sorts of matters usually work in MLS. Either one of those assets likely constituted a sum too great to exchange for a player perhaps ideally suited for a role as a spot starter (three starts for the Union so far this season, for example). The inclusion of both trade chips represents dramatic and inadvisable overpayment. In a league of increasing sophistication, it is just about as poor of a deal as one can reasonably conceive involving the exchange of a single player.
It is not the first time Chivas USA traded in such wanton fashion. Juan Agudelo (cast for a sum of allocation money likely sent to the Union with no regard to the value of his rights), James Riley (dispatched along with salary relief for a 2015 supplemental draft pick, according to the Washington Post) and Casey Townsend (a first-round draft pick shipped to D.C. United for a second- round selection) all left southern California for pittances. The club also placed itself at significant, if unpunished, peril by anointing Carlos Alvarez as the number two selection in the SuperDraft without any knowledge of the first overall selection.
Not even the relatively successful shuttling of Shalrie Joseph to Seattle erases this trend of squandering resources and weakening bargaining positions. Two potential explanations come to mind to explain the phenomenon. Both of them may work in concert, but neither one reflects well on the executives calling the shots in Guadalajara (and forgetting to inform José Luis Sánchez Solá along the way): (1) they do not understand how the league works or (2) they do not care because they plan to follow their own path to success.
At least the second point supplies some semblance of an out. In that scenario, the usual currency – allocation money, budget room and draft picks – matters little to the Red-and-White. The people in charge want certain types of players (preferably on loan from the parent club) and pursue them in their own ways. They aren't trying to buy down salary numbers to squeeze a middle-class veteran within the budget or use the extra dough to splash out on transfer fees. Most of those issues simply aren't in play for a club predicated on acquiring potential prospects for Liga MX at a discount and using seasoned Mexican players to fill in the gaps.
Willful ignorance only takes the explanation so far, though. Chivas USA may not care much about the peculiar resources at its disposal, but it seems unable to process how to harness them properly or use them in a way to further their own goals.
Agudelo's deal offers perhaps the best insight into how this naivete harms the club. Even though Agudelo signaled he would test the market when his contract expired at the end of the year, he still provided value to the club because he could contribute for the next six months (likely as the top forward on the roster) and then would leave his MLS rights with the club after he rejected the inevitable offer to re-sign.
Both of those factors – his production now and his rights later, even if those rights do not rate highly within the club's internal system – produce value for the club well in excess of the presumably modest amount of allocation money procured from the Revolution. His departure impairs the present efforts substantially without producing any sort of benefit toward the overall goal of fielding a winning team.
Chivas USA then continued the faulty line of logic behind that move by then sending the acquired chunk of allocation money to Philadelphia for G. Farfan this week. In essence, the club traded six months of Agudelo, the future rights to the U.S. international and the club's natural first-round pick next year (likely a top five selection with the way are things are going) in exchange for the Union reserve.
No matter how a club operates, that sort of incomprehensible math does not bode well for constructing a winning team. As Chivas USA sorts through the trade offers inevitably headed its way after the latest pair of imbalanced swaps, the club needs to figure out how to assess incoming entreaties and then devise a way to extract genuine value to further their own project. Until that point arrives and the Red-and-White tweaks its system accordingly, it will just help other teams further their own goals at a significant discount.
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