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Whitecaps Trade Rights to Fullback Chris Estridge to Salt Lake

The Vancouver Whitecaps today announced that they have traded the rights to fullback Chris Estridge to Real Salt Lake in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2013 MLS draft.

Estridge is a 22-year-old (23 in September) who came to the Whitecaps in the second round of the last MLS SuperDraft but never signed a contract with the team. A former student at his hometown Indiana University, Estridge didn't have a great college career but made some strides in his junior and senior years that moved him into contention for a draft pick.

The Whitecaps hadn't signed Estridge, although with a roster spot free they could have. The team's slumping a bit at fullback with Alain Rochat hurt and, if he could have provided decent coverage, Estridge wouldn't be the worst choice to sit on the bench, and jog through the occasional Reserves game. Another would-be fullback, Bilal Duckett, was also cut loose after a long trial, leaving the team a little exposed.

Estridge was already getting into MLS Reserves matches for Salt Lake, seeing 45 minutes on April 8 against Colorado and 90 on March 27 against Chicago. The Rio Tinto staff were obviously higher on him than the Whitecaps ever were. Getting some asset (even if it's just a conditional draft pick) for a player we seemingly never planned on using is good horse trading.

Still, I can't help but regret the waste of the pick and then the waste of the player who came with it. If Vancouver's fullback depth becomes a problem later in the season, the Estridge situation will be one of the reasons why.

I didn't want us to draft Estridge; I had my eye on Generation Adidas fullback Tyler Polak (a younger player who's already made his debut with the New England Revolution). Estridge came into training camp and didn't prove me wrong, losing the spot he should have gotten to (surprisingly useful) Supplemental Draft pick Greg Klazura.

Estridge looked like a sub-optimal player at the time and, having gone from a high second-round pick to something less in about five months, is a nasty example of bad asset management. Usually the Whitecaps under Martin Rennie have done well in that department. Grabbing draft picks and allocation money for players like Jay Nolly and Shea Salinas who most teams would have waived without a second thought is smart work. It doesn't do much good when the draft picks are wasted, though.

Estridge went as high as he did largely on the strength of a good MLS Combine, while my boy Polak reportedly struggled. The Combine is a competition where players who aren't familiar with each other team up and try to show off their individual skills in a non-competitive environment rather than help their team win games. It's short and rather brutish, with little rest and plenty of long games on iffy fields. Under no circumstances should you be basing which player you draft on such a small, ridiculous sample.

Salt Lake seems high on Estridge, who by no means appears to be a terrible player (just not the best one available). And the Whitecaps did well, both for the man and for the team, to get another draft pick for his rights rather than just letting his career expire. The story ended about as well as it could have if the Whitecaps didn't want to sign him. But hopefully they've learned a lesson.