Hot on the heels of December 11’s 2018 Expansion Draft, MLS is holding its annual Waiver Draft on December 12. The Expansion edition of MLS’ December Draft bonanza saw the New York Red Bulls lose Hassan Ndam to FC Cincinnati. But don’t expect much news pertaining to RBNY out of the Waiver Draft: the club has a long and proud tradition of completely ignoring it.
To be fair, most teams ignore the Waiver Draft. It is set-up as a re-entry mechanism for players who are out of contract or had options declined, but haven’t been in MLS long enough to qualify for the Re-Entry Draft (that’s on December 14; bet you can’t wait) or the league’s formal Free Agency process.
As such, the Waiver Draft presents a cluster of young players seasoned with a veteran or two recently landed in the league. A team selecting a player in the Waiver Draft is bound to extend a “Genuine Offer” - essentially an offer strongly influenced by the terms of the player’s previous MLS contract. Once a player clears the waiver draft, teams can negotiate with a freer hand, if they wish: so ignoring the Waiver Draft doesn’t necessarily mean that the players available are not wanted by MLS clubs, more that their previous contracts aren’t attractive.
The Red Bulls have five players eligible for this year’s Waiver Draft, and it would be a surprise to see any of them selected.
Fidel Escobar and Marc Rzatkowski were on loan to RBNY - so any club picking them up in the draft would need to negotiate fresh terms with the non-MLS clubs that control their rights. Doesn’t make a great deal of sense to do that based on the ghost of a loan agreement that suited the Red Bulls; surely a lot easier to let the players clear waivers and start a fresh round of discussions to bring them back to MLS with their clubs.
Ethan Kutler and Kevin Politz were junior players on the RBNY roster last season, with five first-team appearances (all for Kutler) between them. They would seem more likely candidates for pre-season trials with any interested MLS teams than a snap signing off waivers.
So be very surprised if there is news of RBNY being affected in any way by this year’s Waiver Draft. The team will most likely pass, because it always passes on the Waiver Draft; and its recently-released draft-eligible players don’t look like attractive prospects for other clubs to select via this process.
There are three RBNY-relevant players in the Waiver Draft this year: former NYRB II defender Mike Da Fonte, released by Colorado Rapids; ex-RBNY Academy prospect Adam Najem, released by Philadelphia Union; and James Murphy - released by LAFC - who has no direct Red Bulls connection, but who is the brother of Red Bulls Academy’s John Murphy.
The draft will be held at 4:00 pm, Eastern on Wednesday, December 12. It will most likely produce a brief statement from MLS indicating the majority - if not all - of the league’s clubs declined the opportunity to participate.