During his stint as New York Red Bulls sporting director, Ali Curtis developed a reputation for pulling off successful trades on often extraordinarily favorable terms. The players didn't always work out on the field, but the trades were mostly masterful. Among Curtis' greatest hits: drafting highly-rated college prospect Leo Stolz when the rest of the league assumed the player wasn't interested in MLS; signing starting CB Aurelien Collin from Orlando City for a fourth-round draft pick, and still leaving OCSC to pick up about half of Collin's $500,000 salary.
And there was the case of Kyle Reynish: Curtis managed to pick up RBNY's back-up 'keeper for 2015 (and 2016) in exchange for a draft pick the Red Bulls had given away once already.
The league's roster and trade rules are famously complicated, and it almost wasn't fair to let Curtis (who had written some of those rules) loose among less MLS-savvy rivals. But in 2017, the Curtis era has come to an abrupt close. And the subject of his most brazen trade - Reynish, the man RBNY picked up in exchange for a draft pick it didn't have - slipped away from the club more quietly, joining the 2016 class of MLS free agents.
Reynish had spent much of the preseason training with Atanta United, and it was no great surprise when it was announced that he had signed with the team. What was a surprise was that the announcement came via RBNY, who signed Reynish and traded him to Atlanta for a fourth-round draft pick.
Say what? The Red Bulls traded a free agent? A free agent goalkeeper, no less - and RBNY has four 'keepers on its MLS roster already. So Reynish was signed for no other reason than to be traded.
Yes, Denis Hamlett's first act as RBNY Sporting Director was to steal a page from the Ali Curtis handbook on committing daylight robbery on the MLS trading floor, and somehow extract value from Atlanta for a free agent who was already in its training camp and for whom RBNY had no need.
How? Why? Well, there are theories:
So with the Reynish sign and trade... I wonder how much (if any) salary #RBNY is retaining.— Russ McKenzie (@Russ_McKenzie) March 1, 2017
Maybe Atlanta had cap problems and turned to RBNY for a favor, asking the Red Bulls to carry a little salary so Reynish could get squeezed on to the ATL roster?
Maybe. But unless it was a very small amount of salary, that's a favor that seems like it would amount to more than the fourth round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft that RBNY got for sending Reynish to Atlanta. And OaM understands that there is no hidden salary liability in the trade. The deal RBNY cut with Atlanta was a clean swap: 'keeper for draft pick.
Once A Metro's inquiries into how exactly the Red Bulls got themselves between Reynish and Atlanta did yield another, simpler explanation for why the trade happened at all: the rules of MLS Free Agency were established in the league's 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLS Players Union, and the CBA restricts the number of free agents any one team can acquire in a year.
Atlanta has already signed Jeff Larentowicz and Jacob Peterson from the 2016 Free Agent class. It couldn't sign Reynish - not as a free agent, anyway. An opportunistic trading partner was required: enter the New York Red Bulls.
So Denis Hamlett's first official trade as RBNY's sporting director was the extraction of (very) modest compensation from Atlanta for providing the favor of rescuing Reynish from free agency so he could land in Atlanta by another mechanism.
The prize is only a fourth-round pick, but holding a player to ransom isn't a good look and the cost of this small favor to RBNY would appear to be nothing - plus Atlanta maybe owes the Red Bulls some similar act of goodwill in future. Well played, Denis Hamlett. And thanks again, Kyle Reynish for continuing to be the source of surprising episodes in RBNY's trade history.