By IVES GALARCEP
As we learned when the MLS players salaries were released recently, there are some players who are paid way less than the value they bring to their teams. We also saw predictable and clear evidence that there are players who are coming nowhere close to bringing a good return of investment on their sizable salaries.
What makes a player truly overpaid? Is it fair to call a player overpaid who has been forced to the sideline by a lengthy injury? Not really, so for the purposes of our All-Overpaid Best XI, we have tried to keep out players who have missed a majority of matches due to injury.
Does being on the All-Overpaid team mean a player isn’t a good player. That isn’t necessarily the case either. In some cases, a team has chosen to bench a player who could potentially be starting regularly for other teams, like a Heath Pearce. While that maybe the case, the reality is they are not bringing back a good return on the investment their salaries represent, and yes, you can put some of the blame for that on the teams those players play for.
Something else to consider when putting together an All-Overpaid team is whether that player’s team has a less expensive alternative who is starting over them, or outperforming them.
We also have to acknowledge that, as things stand, we are only a third of the way through the season. There is ample time for players to turn things around and start earning their money, but for players who look to have tougher roads to those kind of turnarounds, they have a spot on this team.
Lastly, the reality is that the worst examples of truly overpaid players are players who aren’t on MLS teams right now, but who had their awful contracts bought out by teams desperate to be rid of them. Kris Boyd made $1.5 million in 2012, and the Timbers paid a princely sum to be rid of him.
And the worst bargain in MLS this year? There is little doubt that player is Rafa Marquez, who the Red Bulls bought out this winter. He made an obscene total of $4.6 million in 2012 and there is good reason to believe the Red Bulls paid him at least half that, and likely more, to leave MLS and join Mexican club Leon.
As for the players currently on MLS rosters and drawing salaries worth much more than the production and level of play they have produced? Here are our picks for the current SBI MLS All-Overpaid Best XI:
SBI MLS ALL-OVERPAID BEST XI
————–Kenny Miller——————-Sherjill MacDonald————-
Dilly Duka—————————————————–Matias Sanchez
Heath Pearce–Rodrigo Diago—-Bakary Soumare—-Richard Eckerlsey
For those who hadn’t caught on, I tried to select a team based on regular positions, which is why a Heath Pearce is on ahead of some centerbacks who are definitely worse overall values.
The list isn’t strictly a “what they’ve done through the first two months” list either. There are other factors as well. Such as average salaries at each player’s position, and my own measure of their ability as compared to other players at their posititon.
When the 2013 season is over, I will run an updated All-Overpaid Team. I also plan on running a 2012 All-Overpaid team next week. That’s when I’ll call it the 2013 MLS All-Overpaid Team. For now, we’ll leave the year off.
Stefan Frei- He started the season injured, but has stayed on the bench since returning due to the solid form of Joe Bendik ($46,500), thus making Frei the most expensive back-up goalkeeper in the league. Could he start for some other teams? Sure, but right now he’s not and he’s taking up a big salary slot.
Heath Pearce- It might seem unfair to list a player who would absolutely start for most teams in MLS, but the reality is he isn’t starting for the Red Bulls and his salary is four to six times higher than the salary of some very good starting left backs in MLS. If he wins his job back, or gets traded, he wouldn’t last on this list. It should be noted that there is the possibility Chivas USA is still paying a portion of his salary. Even if they were paying half, Pearce’s salary slot on the Red Bulls would be higher than most starting left backs in MLS.
Rodrigo Diago- Kaka’s brother is being paid more than MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler and hasn’t played a single minute despite being healthy. By all accounts this looks like a guaranteed deal swung by the previous regime in New York, with the clear hope of luring Kaka to the Red Bulls.
Bakary Soumare- Much like Pearce, you can’t help but wonder how Soumare would be faring on another team, or if he were starting with the Union. He is about to get his chance to impress and if he has a strong run, he could wound up being traded, and almost assuredly would play himself off this list when it is revisited at the end of the season.
Something interesting to consider is whether people feel a player who isn’t playing is a worse value than a high-priced player who is playing terribly. There are definitely some high-priced centerbacks who are costing their teams goals and points regularly this season.
Richard Eckersley- His salary figure is lower than it was last year, when it was $390,000, but he remains an overpaid right back. How overpaid? He makes more than $60,000 more than the next highest paid right back (Sean Franklin at $248,333) yet Eckersley is an average right back at best by MLS standards.
Shalrie Joseph- He makes almost $600,00 and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. It should be noted though that Chivas USA is picking up a chunk of his salary, so he isn’t as bad a deal for Seattle as the salary would suggest.
Jose Kleberson- Yes, we realize that by acquiring Kleberson, the Union was able to get rid of Freddy Adu’s large contract, so from a value standpoint that transaction is still very much a net gain for the Union. That said, the fact is Kleberson is still making almost half a million and he still hasn’t played his way into more minutes and he may never become a full-time starter. So as an investment he was worth it for the Union, but as a value for his roster slot he won’t be unless he can become a solid regular starter
Dilly Duka- He has dealt with some knocks this season, but there is no denying that when he has played he has been disappointing. It should be noted that the Columbus Crew are paying a majority of Duka’s salary as part of the trade with Chicago so the Fire are still getting a bargain for a talented young player who could still break out.
Kenny Miller- The Whitecaps tried to unload him this winter because of his hefty seven-figure salary, but were ultimately unable to. His production to date? Two goals in 230 minutes and he hasn’t played since March. (Note- Miller has had a hamstring injury that has sidelined him). While that is enough reason to leave him out, the fact he wasn’t exactly the most productive DP last year either makes him stay on our list.)
Sherjill MacDonald- Fire fans cringe when they hear MacDonald labeled a Designated Player because he is really only one in name and not in terms of production. He has zero goals and one assist in eight matches, and has yet to play the way he played last year when he helped the Fire reach the playoffs. So why is he on such a high salary? Pretty simple. You aren’t going to find players in Europe at his age (27) for less. Now it’s up to him to produce to that number.
Some would argue that Tim Cahill, at $3.6 million, is an overpaid player who should be on this list. I’m not one of those people. Even before his recent run of goals, Cahill was bringing plenty to the table in terms of leadership and work rate and it was only a matter of time before he started finding the net. Goals and assists can’t be the only measure of Designated Players, and the fact is Cahill brings too many intangibles to the table to be considered a bad investment for the Red Bulls.
Note that several high-priced players are on loan, like Alvaro Fernandez, Carlos Valdes and Freddy Montero. The teams they have been loaned to are picking up most, if not all of their salaries so they aren’t really All-Overpaid eligible.
Who are some players that narrowly missed the cut? Here are some:
Dejan Jakovic ($303,341), Darren O’Dea ($456,250), Bobby Convey ($215,000), Dwayne DeRosario ($645,333), Juan Toja ($295,000), Rafael Teixeira ($284,625)
What do you think of this list? Who else do you think should have been included? Who made the list that you feel is unfairly included?
Share your thoughts below.