Pros and Cons: Weighing up a Tim Parker trade and his value in MLS

Pros and Cons: Weighing up a Tim Parker trade and his value in MLS

The Tim Parker trade news just won’t go away, and it’s growing some extra twists and turns as it goes.

When Steven Goff broke the news on Monday that Vancouver Whitecaps were in talks with New York Red Bulls concerning trading Tim Parker, the initial reaction was one of shock. I’m not sure there are many people that saw this one coming.

It was a deal that seemed to make little sense. Parker was literally front and centre in the Whitecaps ad campaign for the new Unity strip. Surely this was just another silly season rumour. But as the Kekuta Manneh trade showed last season, and the departures of David Ousted and Jordan Harvey confirmed a few months later, no-one’s future is guaranteed in Vancouver, whether you’re one of the faces of the team or not.

I’d just spoken to Parker on Friday afternoon as he got set to fly with the team to Las Vegas (you can here it on the latest AFTN Soccer Show HERE – it could still prove to be his last interview as a Whitecap). He was in a good mood as we chatted about his personal growth in the last three seasons and what he was looking forward to about the season to come. There was no indication that he may be about to spend that season at a new club.

Goff’s initial tweet had said this was a deal that would see the Red Bulls experienced midfielder Brazilian Felipe Martins heading to the ‘Caps. He later amended that to say that it was looking more like the deal would be for allocation money.

Tuesday brought reports that the Whitecaps and the Red Bulls were quite far apart in terms of valuation for Vancouver’s 2015 first round SuperDraft pick. A player who spent his first three seasons as a pro in Vancouver, making 81 MLS appearances, and who is coming off what was his best season as a Whitecap and his second invite to a US National Team camp.

What made the news so odd was that Parker seemed set to be a staple with the ‘Caps for many seasons to come, His partnership with Kendall Waston is one of the best defensive pairings in Major League Soccer. They are a formidable duo in both boxes.

Parker scored a brace in one of the ‘Caps preseason matches in Hawaii and with the set piece threat Vancouver have this season, it felt like 2018 could be a breakthrough year for the soon be 25-year-old (it’s his birthday tomorrow) in terms of goals. It’s incredible to think he only has one MLS goal to his name (pictured above), or two if Fredy Montero hadn’t nicked one! Although he does also have two for the ‘Caps in the Canadian Championship and one in the CONCACAF Champions League. The goal threat is real, it’s just his luck that isn’t!

With Waston and Jake Nerwinski signed to contract extensions, as Carl Robinson looks to lock up a new core to the team, surely it was only a matter of time before Parker would join them.

But therein lies what looks to be the key issue that could see Parker depart. The new contract negotiations have been underway but it seems that Parker hasn’t been happy with what is on the table.

Was this another example of the ‘Caps lowballing a valued player? Both Ousted and Harvey would have been on reduced money to come back to Vancouver in 2018 and we all know what happened with Camilo. Were they trying to tie the player up on the cheap?

Well if the Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer is to be believed, that certainly doesn’t appear to be the case here, so put those pitchforks away, at least for now.

If Parker wanted to be paid what he felt he was worth and the ‘Caps were lowballing him then fair enough, he should want to go somewhere where he feels appreciated. But if the above offer is accurate, then that is a fantastic deal that overvalues him in my opinion. To turn that down smells of one of two things: you (or your representatives) are either over inflating your worth or there’s other reasons he wants to depart.

Parker has been a starter for two and a half seasons, worn the captain’s armband, and he told us in November that Robbo had spoken with him about the respect he commanded from the locker room.

That is certainly worth a hell of a lot more than the paltry guaranteed amount of $99,600 that he earned in 2017.

After three seasons in the league, two of them stellar and one middling to be fair, Parker is earning just $20,850 more than he was when he first came into the league in 2015. Last season he had to watch Christian Dean not able to play but picking up a guaranteed $202,000 in Vancouver to start the season (due to Generation Adidas hangover and that was cut when he was traded to Chicago), then see Aaron Maund come in to the ‘Caps on a salary of $174,437.50.

To put that into some perspective, yes, Maund has been in the league three years longer than Parker but they have the exact same number of MLS appearances and Parker has more minutes under his belt.

Parker IS was worth a lot more than he is on, but what would you pay him?

Is he worth $1.4 million over three years (an average approaching $470,000 a year)? For me, not in this league and not where he is right now in his career. He hasn’t even made any appearances for the US national team.

With David Edgar, an experienced international player, on $183,333 and looking at Maund’s salary as a six year veteran of the league, those figures would seem to be fair value for a quality MLS center back.

Elsewhere in MLS, two league centre backs kept Parker from getting minutes in the US’ friendly with Bosnia last month. Both are clearly seen to be better than Parker right now. Walker Zimmerman earned $205,000 with FC Dallas last season, while Ike Opara had a salary of $150,000 at Sporting Kansas City and was named MLS Defender of the Year.

Another US international, Steve Birnbaum, earns just shy of half a million dollars at D.C. United. A crazy amount to my eyes. Does Parker see himself as worth more? Birnbaum has 11 US national team caps to his name.

I’d have been happy to see the ‘Caps overpay a little, go up to the $250-$300k range as an investment in a player that had the makings of being a future club captain and a gesture to show they valued him and had faith in him. If they offered $1.4 million over three years, personally, I feel that’s crazy for a player that still has flaws in his game, but that is surely a sign of how much the club does indeed value him.

If he wants more than what Dyer is reporting, then the ‘Caps can’t be faulted too much for baulking at that. Of course, we may never find out the truth, but I do question the timing of these reports and how they’ve come out by Eastern reporters. Who is putting these confidential contract negotiations out in the open and why exactly? Surely it can only unsettle the player.

Both New York teams, Montreal, and D.C. United (where he’d reunite with his college teammate Birnbaum) are reportedly interested in taking on Parker. The ‘Caps are said to be holding out for a high offer of allocation money and maybe more. As they should. Previous intra-MLS deals would set this trade at a minimum of $1 million in allocation money as far as I’m concerned.

Of course, the ‘Caps are in no rush to move him on. He’ll either take the deal on the table and be a Whitecap for years to come, or they’ll wait for the right offer and move him on. So let’s look at some of the pros and cons of a trade.

PROS

(1) There is experienced centre back depth on the squad

Robbo likes to carry five centre backs on his MLS squad. Before the trade, there was four, with a fifth likely to be added with the signing of David Edgar. Right now, we’re down to three (or four with Edgar). All four have a lot of experience. Three of them are national team regulars. They’re all very capable players, so the depth is there, and they offer a different, and sometimes better skill set than Parker. We’re not having to throw in some young rookies. Both Doneil Henry and Edgar didn’t come here to be back ups and will likely be pushing Parker for time this season if he has a dip in form.

(2) A whack of allocation money could be heading to Vancouver

We live in a world of fake news. In MLS, we live in a world of fake money, and boy, the ‘Caps would likely have a whack of it to spend if they traded Parker and don’t get a player back in return. You have to hope that letting Parker leave would be part of a bigger plan. That someone comes in and the allocation money received lets the ‘Caps go out and make a splash on a difference maker. Maybe the number 10 or central midfielder they are needing. Maybe there will be an experienced centre back coming in to replace him. There’s at least one, and depending on if they do buy down Brek Shea, maybe two Designated Players spots open. They’ve got the Garber bucks to do it now. But will they? It doesn’t generate interest and neither does making your team weaker. They have to spend it and ideally before the transfer window closes in May, but not having planned for a Parker departure may delay things. The one thing we don’t want or need is panic buying. Not that I would see Robbo doing that.

(3) Let’s be honest. Parker is a good player, but he isn’t a world beater just yet

Sometimes you just have to be frank. Parker is good. A very decent domestic player. He isn’t great. Or at least he isn’t yet. He has his flaws, as any player about to enter only his fourth year as a pro is going to have. He is a beast in the air, but his mobility lets him down sometimes. He can deliver a great long ball, but he isn’t the best with the ball at his feet. He has a great partnership with Waston, but when he is Ticoless, and depending on who his partner is, he sometimes doesn’t look as good or as comfortable back there as he should. The ‘Caps would lose a good player, one with great potential, but losing someone like Waston would be a far greater loss. If someone wants to give up that amount of money for a player that may or may not reach his full potential down the line, then bite their hand off and use the money now on improving the team.

CONS

(1) World Cup worries

Waston will be away for at least five or six weeks this summer by my reckoning. It could even be longer. Although we talked above about the experience of the central defenders in the squad, there has to be major concerns over their health. Henry hasn’t kicked a ball in a competitive game for over a year and has already suffered a hamstring strain in preseason, Maund isn’t the player he was just two seasons ago, and Edgar, if signed, needs to find his own footing again after a season missed with injury. If any of them break down or are in poor form, then the ‘Caps are hooped, even more so without Parker, and they have no Andrew Jacobson to admirably fill in. Even if they do stay healthy, how happy are you with two of those three as your starting centre backs for a stretch? I have faith in Edgar, possibly Henry, but he can’t do it on his own, and this is a major concern to me. There has to be a further centre back addition now surely to save us from being surly.

(2) Breaking up a solid pairing

As mentioned, Parker and Waston make a great central defensive pairing. To my mind, and Robbo’s, they are amongst the best together in MLS. A pair of beasts when they were on form. The ‘Caps defence has looked decidedly shaky in some preseason matches. Some poor decisions and overall defending. But it was ok, we have our central back defensive pairing to sort that out. That would now be broken up. Waston would have to find chemistry with a new partner. That may take time.

(3) The allocation money has to be seen to be spent on a big signing

As we said above, this would hopefully be part one of a multi-part deal that will see the allocation money put to good use. But will it be? There’s been some poor decisions these last couple of years in terms of where the money has been spent. Shea and Barnes’ salaries, while inherited, were crazy to take on and then have hanging around your necks. Octavio Rivero didn’t work out and wasn’t worth the money. This money needs to be spent and on the right player(s). If it isn’t, some fans will have reached their final straw. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourselves.

Would trading Parker be a move that comes back to bite the Whitecaps in the backside, to use one of Robbo’s favourite phrases? We’ll see I guess if it happens. But as sad as it would be to lose a stand up guy like Parker, it’s certainly not the end of the world. The team could end up better from it. And if Parker doesn’t go, signs a new deal, and the rumours are all BS or grandstanding from certain parties, then the ‘Caps have locked up another key defensive piece. Right now, it’s looking like this could actually be a win-win situation for the team. It didn’t feel like this just three days ago.

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Authored by: Michael McColl

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Ross Hewison at 10:37

    Whitecaps…Let Parker go. If his reported contract demands are what we are hearing, he obviously has an inflated sense of himself. I never really got the sense he ever liked Vancouver anyway. Sad Robo invested so much energy into him when he appears to be leveraging his way out of Vancouver. I want to see David Edgar get a fair chance to start. Like his energy. Read: not me-first like Mr. Parker.

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