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SuperDraft Analysis: The Rapids Sell the Future For Right Now

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The Rapids did a lot (a lot!) of things on Thursday. The things they did were all with one clear purpose: win right now. Will it work?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As I awoke Thursday morning and drank my first cup of coffee, I projected forward to later in the day, expected the Rapids would pick up either midfielder Jack Harrison or Brandon Vincent with the second pick, and I'd have a young and exciting player to watch at DSGP as the team tried to start re-building in 2016 for a possible run at the playoffs in 2017 or 2018. Yeah, about that.

At 6am, I opened twitter to find that Marco Pappa's girlfriend, a beauty pageant queen named Stormy Keffeler, stabbed him in the abdomen last month.

The rest of the day was pretty much just as weird.

The Rapids did a lot of voodoo at Thursday's MLS SuperDraft. At 8am, the Rapids held:


* The 2nd pick, the 22nd pick, the 43rd and the 63rd picks

By the end of the 1st round at 2:13 pm MST, the Rapids had

  • Acquired the 12th pick from the LA Galaxy for Targeted Allocation Money.
  • Traded the 2nd pick to the Philadelphia Union for General Allocation Money and a player to be named later.
  • Traded the 12nd pick, the 22nd pick, and the number 2 spot in the Allocation order to the Chicago Fire for the 15th pick, the 33rd pick, and the number 1 spot in the allocation order.
  • Picked Emmanuel Appiah with the 15th pick.
  • Traded the 33rd pick to FC Dallas for the 37th and 58th pick.
  • Picked Dennis Castillo with 37th pick.

Whew!

As it was happening, it was a dizzying mess. But once it came together, here's what we knew.

1) The Rapids looked like they were officially going to get Mexican Striker Alan Pulido on what almost certainly be a DP contract from Olympiacos. The first $436,000 of that salary counts against the cap.

2) Taylor Twellman shared the ongoing combine rumor that the Rapids were trying to get USMNT Right Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya from Ligue 1 side FC Nantes. Any US Mens National Team player playing abroad is subject to re-entering to MLS through the Allocation Order. Bedoya is said to be earning about $530,000 a year with them, meaning the Rapids would take another $436,000 hit on the salary cap, and need to pay down the rest of that salary using TAM. The Rapids may not have had the nearly $1 million needed in cap space necessary to get these two guys, despite my best math a few months back.

So, to put it simply, the Rapids passed on the draft's top talents, Brandon Vincent and Joshua Yaro, in order to arrange the cash and the position to get Alejandro Bedoya along with big-time DP of Alan Pulido.

Except that four hours later, at 6:38pm, Ives Galarcep reported this on goal.com:

Multiple sources have confirmed Alejandro Bedoya will not be joining the Rapids, despite reports that surfaced on Thursday linking the Nantes midfielder to the Western Conference MLS club.

...

"We tried to make it happen but Nantes is not selling" Bravo said on Thursday of the club's interest in Bedoya. "We still feel securing the top spot in the Player Allocation Order is a very significant step for our organization."

According to Bravo, the Rapids still plan to use the top allocation spot to sign someone this winter, though he would not say who the Rapids are targeting. The list of players available for selection through the MLS Allocation Order process includes, among others, U.S. national team stars Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Aron Johannsson and Tim Ream.

Bedoya has 44 caps for the USMNT and is currently 28 years old, and would have become the best right midfielder in MLS. The only RM even close is Darlington Nagbe, and he's actually a central midfielder now. Bedoya  would have given the Rapids a marquee player: someone that can both sell jerseys and help win, right now. Except, the Rapids didn't get Bedoya.

So, like, I get what the Rapids were going for. They wanted to get the pieces together to win right now, and were willing to trade the pieces to winning next year to do it. And they wanted to mitigate risk: to trade unknown youngsters for a known quantity. Only, they didn't end up with either.

The whole concept of unloading draft picks for allocation money and rising in the allocation order is based on this: the value of Alejandro Bedoya is more known and quantifiable than the potential value of Vincent and Yaro. Those youngsters could be amazing. They could be busts. Let's look at recent history for instruction. Wanna know who the first three picks of 2015, 2014, and 2013 were? Respectively; Cyle Larin, Khiry Shelton, and Romario Williams; Andre Blake, Steve Birnbaum, and Christian Dean; And Andrew Farrell, Carlos Alvarez, and Kyle Bekker.

It's too soon to call some of those busts. But Williams, Dean and Alvarez have played most of their lives in the USL, and Bekker, Blake and Shelton are bench depth as of right now. Larin, Farrell and Birnbaum can be called successes. Meaning that with only a small sample size, high draft picks have a 33% success rate. The draft is a big risk. Even though I gave it a number, it's hard to quantify the risk/reward of any single player. And the value of the number two pick is more likely based on it's maximum potential than it's worst possible outcome. The Rapids would have been selling high on futures in exchange for stock in a company with a proven track record. That's not a bad strategy - if you get the guy with the track record.

But the team didn't get the guy. They swung big, and missed big, all to make the team better, now, instead of getting some young players that can help the team down the line.

It strikes me that the Rapids are trying to win right now for an obvious reason: the Rapids have missed the playoffs for two straight years, and finished last in the Western Conference in 2015. The technical staff: Paul Bravo, Claudio Lopez, and Pablo Mastroeni; are under a lot of pressure to turn things around right now. They can't wait two or three years for a young player to adjust to MLS. They need someone that can help the team win right now. Or they're out in a mid-season purge.

You can say that's selfish of Bravo and Mastroeni and will hurt the team in the long run: they traded the future for the now.

Or you can take a more pragmatic approach and remember that MLS teams should be developing their best players from their academies: the SuperDraft is for middlin' talent. In that case, these moves would have been seen as good.

So what do I think?

Getting Pulido was a great move, but it seems like it didn't require ANY of the draft pick dumping the Rapids did. The draft pick swaps enabled the team to get Bedoya or someone like Bedoya. Since we didn't get Bedoya, let's look at who else they might go after. The players that must go through allocation, as of last May, are here:

I mean, I can't seen Fabian Johnson or Geoff Cameron coming to MLS. They're doing great in Europe. Aron Johanssen and Julian Green play striker: we already have two of those. The only guy I could get excited about on this list I guess is Rubio Rubin. But is he worth spiking your whole draft for? He's only been capped three times and has been out with a foot injury since October.

Then there's a crop of guys who have likely been added to this list since last May. A possible player subject to allocation (I think) is Joe Gyau. He's been out hurt a while, like over a year, and nobody knows what they'll be getting when he returns to health - he's currently with Borussia Dortmund II. Other guys I can imagine might qualify now are Bobby Wood, Miguel Ibarra, and Omar Gonzalez, but none of those make any sense to me for an MLS team to acquire, because Wood isn't going to leave Germany and Ibarra and Omar just got to Liga MX.

The last two possible players that may now be subject to allocation are Joe Corona, currently at Sinaloa in Liga MX, and Ventura Alvarado, playing for Club America. I can see both as Rapids targets, and I can see both as good gets for the team, potentially worthy of giving up the number 2 and 12 picks. But since it's completely hypothetical that we get one of them, while Brandon Vincent could have actually been draped in a burgundy scarf at 11am this morning, I'm frustrated.

I don't see how the Colorado Rapids can call this draft a success. I don't see how they made these moves without having a firm deal in place for a player abroad. I don't see what they do with a top allocation spot but no clear target to bring in.

In the end, I can't help but feel let down. II speculate that Bravo and the Rapids spent the day getting everything ready for Alejandro Bedoya to arrive, but ended up with nothing. So it's on to plan B. We aren't privy to plan B. We actually have to hope there is a plan B.

The Rapids will end the draft Friday with a couple of long shot prospects stashed with the Charlotte Independence, two solid strikers, and a whole lot of questions in both midfield and along the back line. Questions Alejandro Bedoya could have answered. Questions that they only have about 6 weeks to find answers for.