Sports Illustrated's Brian Strauss - not a journalist given to rumor-mongering - is reporting that Mike Magee is "on the verge" of signing a new contract with the Chicago Fire which will make the 29-year-old a Designated Player.
Magee, the 2013 MLS MVP, recently cited ‘personal issues' as the reason for his two-week absence from training camp, because that totally wasn't a holdout, maaaan. In a coincidence of mammoth proportions, during that two weeks, the front office decided that paying Magee $190k for 2014 just wouldn't be right - y'know, just not right - so they're offering him somewhere just shy of half a million dollars a year.
The question before our panelists today is simple: Is signing Magee to a DP contract a great idea? Or is it overpaying at peak value, the classic anti-moneyball move?
Here's the thing: He's got the club over a barrel. Magee's agent, Richard Motzkin, played this beautifully - Magee has never been the kind of guy who dutifully lines up day after day to feed the media beast, but since the MVP award, he's been Mr. I'll-Do-It, showing up to get his picture taken as Mike Magee, the Guy Who Came Home & Won MVP. The Fire are left with two options: Pay the man, or tear down every bit of personality marketing done over the last six months and start over - not an attractive prospect down the stretch of a ticket-sales drive.
Thing is, how much of a risk is this, really? If the Fire pay Magee $500k and he puts up, say, six goals and three assists, won't they just put him through the Re-Entry Draft to compact his deal down to size? The traditional drawbacks of long, lucrative deals are greatly blunted under MLS' owners-always-win system.
Finally, there's the message this sends as an organization which is trying to build around youth. Showing that the Fire are willing to pay DP money for a productive American player sends a signal to the younger players - this is a place you can thrive, and if you thrive, you can get paid. Five years ago, the highest aspiration for a 17-year-old Academy kid was getting snatched up by a European power. This deal is another anecdote which helps make the case that the talent we develop, here in the Fire system, can flourish long-term, and makes the case to their players and families in the language everyone speaks: Money.
Magee definitely deserves the raise and he does have the qualities of a leader that this team was missing last year. Considering spending #keanelikemoney seams to be out of the question for this ownership - keeping Magee around would be the best thing for this team.
The only thing that bothers me with this is in the summer will this hinder the teams ability to make any moves just in case Yallop's plan isn't going as well as he planned? Since we were so up against the cap to begin with, how does this hurt or help?
If it was truly a holdout while discussions were going on, why all the lies? That's one thing that bothers me about this club right now. If Magee stayed at home for family problems then why did he tell SI he went into camp as a sign of good faith? In the end, though, good for Mike.
I think it's a necessary move. He's not the ideal DP but he does deserve the money because of his previous season and importance to the team. I believe that this caused us to move Berry which isn't great but the team needs to keep its best player. I just hope that he continues to perform with a new contract. In short, this contract is a necessary evil.
For what Magee has done for the Fire - and will hopefully continue to do - he deserves to be rewarded. If big name players aren't going to be brought in, Magee ought to be one of the clubs DPs. Recent history has shown that little known South American and European players have been brought in with that tag and have had little to no success. Magee is a proven commodity even if his goal total dips this season as many are predicting. He does everything right on the field and is a natural leader. Make him a VP while you're at it. Of anything!
Sarah Hylla Spence
What he said.
Sean's question is interesting: "Is this a great idea, or is it overbuying at peak value, the classic anti-moneyball move?" The answer is, it's both.
It's a great idea, because Mike Magee is the kind of player that not everyone has, but everyone wants. A pure goalscorer, with a midfielders sense of position, and the ability to control a match. It's overbuying at peak value, because frankly, for DP money - real DP money - they could probably land a certain German striker who plays for a certain club in Italy with fascist tendencies, whose contract may be up at the end of the season. In fact, they probably still could. They're allowed 3 Designated Players. Someone should call that other German we had who still likes the club and tell him to get on that. And tell the club to make with the #KeaneLikeMoney.
My heart and head are fighting against each other on whether making Magee a DP is a smart move. Without a doubt he deserves it for the work he did for the Fire in 2013. He was the best attacking player the Fire have seen in many years, and he led the club from the pit of despair to the cusp of the playoffs. Fans and the Fire both want a happy Magee on the pitch this season.
That being said, the rationale that Magee is unlikely to repeat his 2013 performance in 2014 is almost certainly correct. When we look at whether it serves the club well to have him as a DP, it clearly does not benefit our ability to add talent. If the Fire are fighting for position in a tough Eastern conference at the mid-season window, that DP slot could come in handy to bring in a difference maker that can push us over the top. I wish league rules were different and the Fire could just give him the raise he deserves without worrying about cap and a limited number of DP slots, but unfortunately this is the structure the Fire must operate within.
That being said my heart says give him the money and DP slot and my head says don't.
Call it the necessary evil of his performance last year. Given the recent disappointment of past designated players, this move comes with the air of restoring the DP reputation among supporters. The last five Chicago DPs [Castillo, Puppo, Flaco, Macdonald, and now Angonano] have only accounted for 10 league goals. Over the course of a year (split between two teams), Magee doubled this combined past output while offering more intangibles both on and off the pitch. We need not readdress the difficulties encountered when these players (I'm looking at you Puppo) became frustrated and gave up on playing for the badge.
A DP contract would also be smiled on by MLS. Each of other 2013 MLS MVP finalists [Keane, Cahill, Di Vaio] AND all previous MVP winners since 2007 have been DPs. The DP rule sets a precedent for the success of these players and paints a nice picture for those considering a move to the MLS. While the DP rule remains controversial since the transfer of Beckham in 2007, it is the pet project of MLS and they want it to look good.
Of course, veteran Fire fans will start lowering expectations for Magee's performance this season. Beyond the emotional backlash of past DP disappointment, the motivating factors that turned late-game-sub Magee into ‘pitch commander' Magee are gone. Those factors: the win-win transfer from LA that left good vibes all around and, most importantly, striving for a world cup spot.
Still, 2013 was magical for our own Mike and cannot be soon forgotten. This is his due.
I have no problem supporting this. Mike Magee had 15 goals in 21 appearances for the Fire last season - if you count cup play, 18. Prior to that, the rest of our designated players had 8 goals combined (not including the fantastic Blanco and daisy-fresh Anangono, who should be given time before judgment is passed.)
When you're talking about the MVP of the league, he should be at the top of his own club's payroll. Magee presumably got what he wanted, so now he needs to back it up again. He doesn't need to be league MVP again or even score as many goals, but he can't make a fool of the front office. One of the golden rules in sports management is never pay for past performance, and I don't think they have in this case. Magee should be in his peak years and there is no reason to believe he won't continue to be an offensive force for the club.
A second reality with the situation is he has a greater return on that investment because of the way the club can use him to expand the brand. He is the prodigal son who has returned home. A Chicago-bred MVP. You want more butts in seats, he is a good starting point.
Knee jerk reaction - I was against this move. Mike Magee scored a total of 36 regular season goals prior to 2013. Even before Magee joined the Fire in May of 2013, Magee had 6 goals with LA. The most he had ever scored in a season ever was 5.
Now that I've had time to reflect on this, I realize that Magee is not getting this DP contract on goals alone, and I'm just a little conflicted about this.
Magee is the face of the franchise. When was the last time the Fire had one of those? I guess one could argue that Rolfe was in in 2012, but in all honesty, I don't think the Fire have had one since the days of Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Early on in 2012, I was on the Around the League podcast, and Scott Bornstein said that he didn't think the Fire had an identity and asked me what I thought the Fire's identity was. I gave him a some bullshit answer about Dominic Oduro because I didn't have an answer. Thanks to Mike Magee, I now have an answer to that question almost two years later.
So is it worth spending a DP spot on a player because they are the face of the franchise? Yes. That is why LA got Beckham. That is why New York got Henry. That is why Dempsey is in Seattle, and Bradley is in Toronto. For Magee, the most relevant argument is Wondolowski, because Wondo got a DP contract for scoring a lot of goals while never playing abroad. Maybe that is why Magee's new contract feels funny to me. He didn't play abroad.
If there is one thing I feel sure about from this situation, it is that Juan Luis Anangonó's situation just became a bit more precarious (as if it wasn't precarious enough already). Per the 2013 roster rules, teams can purchase a third DP for $150,000 in allocation money (unless the DP is under the age of 23, then it is free). The Fire will not be paying that money to bring in a third designated player this summer if Anongono is not producing.
Are the Fire overpaying? Or are they finally coming correct? We'd love to add your voiced to this chorus, and for that, there's the comment section.