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What Whitecaps fans should take away from MLS salary dump day

Come nerd out over numbers with us!

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken

For all you amateur CPAs, the best day of the year happened Thursday: the MLS Players Association released its annual batch of salary information. The results were, per usual, quite interesting.

The Whitecaps check in at the 16th biggest spenders in the league at a hair over $7.5 million, five spots down for last year as more and more teams are starting to open up their checkbooks (I’m not going to take a shot at the reluctance of management to open the purse strings here but I wouldn’t blame you if you did). They actually are spending about $200,000 less than last season, despite bringing in a host of new players, largely because $1.8 million man Fredy Montero is back plying his trade for Sporting in Portugal.

Here are a few quick thoughts on the salary release:

No one doles out the league minimum quite like Vancouver

Vancouver has one of the highest numbers of players on league minimum contracts in the league. For 2018 that salary stands at about $54,000 and five players on the Caps make it: Sean Melvin, Justin Fiddes, Debyi Flores, Marco Bustos and Myer Bevan. With the exception of Flores and Fiddes, these are all homegrown players who thus come cheaper for the Whitecaps. Others, like David Norman, Spencer Richey (yeah he still exists), Simon Colyn and even Brett Levis make within $10-15,000 of the league minimum. The takeaway here is that, aside from any boost to the on-field product, a robust academy helps free up cap space (at least in theory) to be spent elsewhere. If the Whitecaps can figure out how to actually develop this talent (@CarlRobinson), it will help the financial situation of the club immensely. In case you were wondering, the average salary in Vancouver writ large is c$55,000 or about $46,000 in USD.

Sean Franklin makes twice as much as Alphonso Davies

There’s no real takeaway here, I just thought it was really funny.

Jake Nerwinski needs a new agent

One salary that really stood out to me is Jake Nerwinski who (despite his poor form) sits well below what I would consider the market rate to be for an above-average MLS fullback. Jake makes $72,625 a season, lower than every other first team defender by a pretty fair margin. While recency bias may hurt Nerwinski’s case for a raise, as he goes through a sophomore slump, its worth remembering he finished sixth in rookie-of-the-year voting last season. Atlanta’s German playmaker Julian Gressel won ROY and sports a $111,000 salary, with runner-up Abu Danladi of Minnesota United making $186,000. Now, rookies in MLS are notoriously underpayed, especially if they’re a defender (Philadelphia Union’s rookie defenseman Jake Elliott, who actually placed ahead of Nerwinski on the ROY ballot makes less than $60,000). But a bump for Nerwinski, assuming he shows a bit more as the season goes on, is in order next offseason.

Despite a below-average spend, Vancouver is getting poor value out of a lot of these guys

The fact that the Caps best player this season is Davies, on $72,000, speaks volumes about the team’s play. Efrain Juarez ($619,833), Aly Ghazal ($700,566) and Yordy Reyna ($533,700) are guys that jump out as having grossly under-performed their salaries this season. Given that those figures are all roughly equal to elite playmakers like New York Red Bulls’ Kaku ($709,000), top defensive mids like NYCFC’s Alex Ring ($411,666) and goalscorers like Houston’s Romell Quioto ($252,500), its clear why Vancouver is getting outpaced. The interesting part of the salary release is seeing different team’s cap strategies. Stalwart playoff clubs like New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew SC (RIP) spend less than Vancouver yet get much more out of their sides.

Brek Shea’s salary is less of a bad deal than it used to be

Even as Shea is making more money this year than last ($745,000 v. $670,000), he is arguably earning it as the team’s joint top scorer. Long derided as an exceptionally talented, yet lazy, winger/wingback/striker/midfielder, Shea has actually upped the energy this season to perhaps warrant the DP price tag he carries for Vancouver. Not that I wouldn’t like to see this deal bought down with TAM in time for the summer transfer window but I was much less angry when I scrolled down to Shea’s salary than I was last season.

Jordon Mutch took a BIG pay cut to come to MLS

According to the interwebs, Jordon Mutch was making 28,000 pounds a week for Crystal Palace (about $1.9 million a season). His 2018 salary in Vancouver? $284,166. Given that Mutch has looked to be one of the team’s most reliable midfield options this seems low. But for a former EPL player, that has to seem really low. Hope he’s got some nice bonuses baked into that deal.

This was just a quick hit of observations from the initial numbers. What takeaways did we miss? Let us know in the comments!