Trading fan favorite Joseph may help Revolution in the long run
Shalrie Joseph was traded to Chiva USA for Blair Gavin, a draft pick and money
The deal allows the Revs to cut salary, free up a DP spot and make more moves
They now have the flexibility to address key needs, such as improved defense
Sports fans in New England have been here before. Almost eight years to the day, as a matter of fact.
With the 2004 Boston Red Sox at a critical juncture, general manager Theo Epstein pulled the strings on perhaps the most controversial trade deadline deal in franchise history, shipping shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, the face of the franchise (and husband of U.S. women's soccer icon Mia Hamm), to the Chicago Cubs on July 31. In exchange, he accrued complementary pieces that hardly equaled the player's perceived value and ability on the field and presence in the community off of it.
It was a polarizing move at the time in sports-crazed Boston, where athletic icons are worshiped and fans grow an attachment to players who would look so out of place in another uniform that the only acceptable reasons for ending their time in the city would be injury or retirement. Legends are expected to linger forever, and their legacies are never meant to be altered. In time, though, the team's fervent supporters grew to appreciate the necessity of the deal, seeing how it was made with the greater good in mind and eventually reaching a point of acceptance when the desired results were achieved.
A short drive south from Fenway Park and eight years and a day later, those that make up the New England Revolution braintrust have taken a similar calculated gamble, one that they hope leads to the same championship dividends.
The Revolution dealt long-tenured veteran Shalrie Joseph across the country to Chivas USA Wednesday morning in a stunning development in MLS circles, exporting the club's captain and midfield stalwart since 2003 for allocation money, a 2013 second-round SuperDraft pick and young midfielder Blair Gavin. Considering what Joseph has meant to the Revs and MLS in his 10 seasons, it can hardly be considered an equal deal on the surface, but, like the Garciaparra deal, that's not what the trade was about.
When Joseph, 34, was given a long-deserved Designated Player deal prior to the season, few would have expected that the club's big-money commitment to him would mean trading him just months later; however, it was becoming more apparent that even a fully fit Joseph's place in the Revolution starting lineup was no longer a given with the surplus of midfielders providing a selection quandary. With Joseph not getting any younger, the club able to slash his $554,333.33 in guaranteed 2012 compensation from the books, other defensive needs on the roster becoming increasingly more glaring, the chance to free up a DP spot and gain the flexibility to make necessary moves to address those need areas, the pros of trading the heart and soul of the team outweighed the cons, and New England abruptly turned the page on an era.
It's business. An agonizing piece of business that takes the personal and emotional element out of the game and one that was signed off by one of Joseph's former teammates, coach Jay Heaps, and a man quite familiar with New England's history, general manager and former Revs standout Mike Burns. It was a necessary move, though, if the Revs are to make the adjustments needed to grow. In a rigidly structured league where roster and financial flexibility are invaluable assets, New England has now obtained a bit of both while slightly sacrificing some of the current product on the field. New England also holds the top spot in the MLS allocation order, and even though the summer transfer window has come and gone, the club can add out-of-contract players who would not require an international transfer certificate until the Sept. 15 roster freeze deadline.
What that means is that the Revs have the first right of refusal for any out-of-contract U.S. international who may sign with the league in the next six weeks. There have been rumblings of Carlos Bocanegra getting out of his contract with financially embattled Scottish club Rangers and potentially returning to MLS, and there's no question that adding a player of the U.S. captain's caliber to the Revolution's back line would transform the club's outlook going forward. That's not to say that deal is a given, but that represents the ceiling for the Revolution in the coming weeks, and the potential is too great to ignore. In the aftermath of the Garciaparra deal and addressing the pieces he acquired, Epstein claimed, "We weren't going to win a World Series with our defense." The Revolution won't win an MLS Cup with theirs as it's currently constructed.
It takes some serious Jabulanis to pull the trigger on a move like the Revs did Wednesday morning, but it was one done with a grander goal in mind. Months after the Garciaparra trade, the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years after a series of heartbreaks, with the complementary players acquired as a result of the controversial deal playing a major role. While making the MLS postseason and going on a title run might be a bit out of reach in 2012 considering their current standing, the Revs have the pieces and new-found assets in place to build a playoff-worthy foundation for the coming years. It's on the Revs' front office to make the correct and most prudent deals going forward, but with the trade of Joseph, as unfathomable as it might seem, they now have the potential to address the need areas and end the club's own championship struggle.