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Another day, another draft: 2018 MLS Re-Entry Draft is here

RBNY traditionally passes on this draft, but Denis Hamlett seems to be enjoying MLS big week of drafts - so keep an eye out for Red Bulls news today.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC v Chivas USA Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The New York Red Bulls have never made a selection in the MLS Re-Entry Draft. Since 2010, when the draft was first held, RBNY has passed in both rounds every single time.

Under normal circumstances, therefore, Once A Metro would suggest RBNY fans spend no time at all thinking about what the Red Bulls might do in the Re-Entry Draft - the answer has always been “nothing”.

But RBNY Sporting Director Denis Hamlett seems to be in a bit of a hurry to get his team’s roster sorted out - maybe he has to be somewhere for Christmas. Since MLS started its big week of end-of-year drafts, Hamlett has been busy filling out the Red Bulls squad.

Tuesday, December 11, saw Hassan Ndam snatched away by FC Cincinnati in the Expansion Draft, leaving RBNY perilously low on center-backs. Hamlett had officially signed defender Amro Tarek from Orlando City within about an hour of FCC’s decision to take Ndam. The following day, starting CB Tim Parker was officially re-signed: center-back crisis averted.

The Waiver Draft is not typically an event that holds much interest for RBNY, but Hamlett traded up on Wednesday, December 12, to give his team the very first pick of this year’s crop of waiver-draft eligible players - and snapped up attacking midfielder Marcus Epps, formerly of the Philadelphia Union.

So who is to say Hamlett won’t make Friday, December 14, the occasion of RBNY’s first-ever pick in a Re-Entry Draft?

The Re-Entry Draft functions as a sort of clearing house for old contracts, much like its companion, the Waiver Draft. But in the latter, teams picking a player merely have to extend a “genuine offer” to cement their claim - something in the ballpark of reasonable as determined by league salary guidelines. The Re-Entry Draft is split into two phases: in the second phase - which will be held on December 20 this year - teams can get by with a “genuine offer” as a prelude to negotiating a new contract; the first phase comes with a few more strings attached.

Per the league’s published rules for the draft:

Players who are eligible to be selected in the Re-Entry Draft include:

Players who are at least 23 years old and have a minimum of three years of MLS experience whose contract options were not exercised by their clubs. They will be available at their option salary for 2019.

Players who are at least 25 years old with a minimum of four years of MLS experience who are out of contract and whose club does not wish to re-sign them at their previous salary. They are available for at least their 2018 salary.

Free Agents that choose to participate.

Basically, in the first phase, clubs are looking for players they’d have been happy enough to sign at whatever their contract stipulated for 2018 or 2019. So if there’s another Marcus Epps lurking in the crowd of players eligible for this draft, maybe Denis Hamlett rounds out his week with another signing.

There 61 players eligible for the Re-Entry Draft, per the list published by MLS. “Eligible” is a broad term in this instance, including the likes of Taylor Kemp - who has retired - and David Villa, who has already decided he’s playing in Japan next season.

Unusually for such a large group of MLS players, there are only two among the 61 with a connection to RBNY.

Carlos Rivas’ option was declined at the end of this season. He arrived at RBNY in January 2018 as part of the trade that sent Sacha Kljestan to Orlando City. By the mid-point of the season, it seemed the Red Bulls had decided Rivas wasn’t going to fit their system - he was loaned to Atletico Nacional, where he helped the club win Copa Colombia. RBNY can’t pick a player it just released in the Re-Entry Draft, and if it wanted Rivas to stick around, it probably wouldn’t have loaned him out in July and even more probably would have renewed his contract.

Mike Grella was released by Columbus Crew after a season that never really got going for him. The injury that cost him playing time and ultimately his place in the RBNY squad kept him off the field until May of this year. He enjoyed a match-winning debut for the Crew in MLS, but was back on the injury list by October. He managed 12 league appearances and one goal for Columbus in 2018.

Rivas’ contract (he earned $444, 996 in 2018 per the MLS Players Association) and Grella’s persistent injury issues would seem to make either an unlikely candidate for selection via the Re-Entry Draft. But stranger things have happened this week alone: RBNY made a pick in the Waiver Draft, for example.

The first phase of the 2018 MLS Re-Entry Draft will be held at 3:00 pm on Friday, December 14. The New York Red Bulls hold the 21st pick.