CoG Studios, CA – As is customary around this time of the year, the MLS Players Union have revealed the 2016 Major League Soccer Player salaries. Below we’ll attempt to glean some information from the numbers and point out some highlights that may be found.
It should be noted that there is no independent verification of the accuracy of these numbers. Players, coaches, and front office staff have routinely criticized the released numbers. However, these are the only salary numbers that are ever released. For the terms of this exercise we’ll pretend that they are fairly accurate portrayals of the players’ actual salaries.
The complete list for the entire league can be found Here:
You will see us talking about Base Salaries and Guaranteed Salaries. According to the MLS Players Union they are defined like this:
The annual average guaranteed compensation number includes a player’s base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the term of the player’s contract, including option years. For example, if a player has a base salary of $50,000, has a two-year contract with two one-year options and received a $10,000 bonus when he signed, his average annual guaranteed compensation would be $52,500 (base salary plus signing bonus ($10,000), with the signing bonus divided by the number of years covered by the contract (4)). The average annual guaranteed compensation number also includes any annual marketing bonus to be received in the current year and any agent’s fees annualized over the term of the contract. The average annual guaranteed compensation figure does not include performance bonuses because there is no guarantee that the player will hit those bonuses.
For the purposes of our review we’ll stick mostly with Base Salaries. However, we may include some Guaranteed Compensation numbers when we think they’re relevant.
TOP SIX HIGHEST PAID LA GALAXY PLAYERS (BASE SALARY)
Steven Gerrard (DP) $6,000,000
Robbie Keane (DP) $3,500,000
Giovani dos Santos (DP) $2,500,000
Nigel De Jong (TAM) $500,000
Gyasi Zardes (TAM) $472,500
Jelle Van Damme (TAM) $425,000
BIGGEST WINNERS AND LOSERS
With the 2015 salary numbers available for every player that was in Major League Soccer we were able to do a quick comparison. Granted some of these numbers can be skewed by players showing up midseason.
Let’s look at Giovani dos Santos’ Base salary in 2015 of $4 million. Because Dos Santos came in midway through the season the Galaxy are really only responsible for half of that money – $2 million.
Therefore, his 2016 base salary of $2.5 million dollars is actually a raise of $500,000. So lets throw out his big pay cut because it probably isn’t one. He actually belongs on the biggest raise list.
But Robbie Keane did take a pay cut. His base Salary in 2016 is $3.5 million. That’s down $1 million from his 2015 base salary of $4.5 million.
On the flip side of things, Gyasi Zardes is this year’s biggest winner. Zardes had a base salary of $150,000 and a guaranteed comp. of $223,000. Most of that money was off of the cap because of him being a Homegrown player. In 2016 Zardes salary is $472,500. And the Galaxy will use Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to pay him down below the max budgeted salary (explanation of TAM, GAM and Max Budgeted Salary are below).
That means in base salary, Zardes got a raise of $322,500 which is the highest increase on the team.
The LA Galaxy signed the first free agent in MLS history, Jeff Larentowicz. And then followed that up with former LA Galaxy great, Mike Magee, also through free agency. So how much did the two Free Agent’s make when signing with the LA Galaxy?
Jeff Larentowicz – 2016 Base $175,000 (With Chicago in 2015 $265,000)
Mike Magee – 2016 Base $250,000 (With Chicago in 2015 $400,000)
Outside of the Designated Players, both Magee and Larentowicz took the biggest pay cuts from 2015 to 2016. Magee signed for $150,000 less than he was making with Chicago last year. And Larentowicz is making $90,000 less than 2015.
NEW TO MLS
Seven LA Galaxy players are new to MLS this year and therefore have no salary information for 2015. But those players are interesting in their own right.
Kevin Baxter, of the LA Times reported Salary figures for Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damme, and Nigel De Jong prior to the season – and he was spot on.
Ashley Cole is a bargain at just $300,000, Van Damme gets into some of the Targeted Allocation Money at $425,000 ($468,750 Guaranteed Comp.) and De Jong, also a TAM signing, comes in at $500,000.
Any player making over the maximum budgeted salary of $457,500 must have either General Allocation Money (GAM) or Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) used to bring that salary under the max cap hit. And to complicate things you cannot combine GAM and TAM. So it’s one or the other.
BEST & WORST VALUE
This is alway subjective, but generally, when you look toward the lower end of salaries, you’ll be able to find some starting players who are underpaid and outperforming their contracts.
Daniel Steres, at just $62,500 is one of those players. He’s played in 10 games so far this year, started nine of those games, has scored one goal and amassed 824 minutes of MLS play. Compare that to his partner in the back, Jelle Van Damme who’s making $425,000 and has played and started in 9 games. That isn’t a knock on Van Damme, but more a comparison to how much Steres has contributed despite his tiny salary number. Or, if the Van Damme comparison makes you uneasy, lets look at Leonardo who’s making $160,000 in base salary for 2016 and has only played in one game after being injured at the start of the season.
Brian Rowe is another value player. Rowe’s base salary in 2016 is $80,000 (up from $60,000 in 2015) and he’s played in 9 games, starting 8. He’s made 30 saves.
His counterpart is Dan Kennedy who’s base salary is $180,000 (down from $233,000 in 2015 with Dallas). Kennedy has only played in 1 complete game and was injured in the first 20 minutes of the season opener.
It’s still early, but Dan Kennedy looks like he falls on the bad part of the value index.
And of course you can’t look at bad value without looking at two of the designated players. While both players have been improving, and value on and off the field is important, most people are still able to look at the numbers and make a decision on value.
At $6,000,000 in base salary, Steven Gerrard is not currently earning his money. Again, off the field is a huge part of how Designated Players are ranked, but even so, I doubt that anyone in the front office would see that as a “good deal.”
Giovani dos Santos also gets questioned in terms of value, but again, with his age, and his uptick in play lately, perhaps this one is still too early to call.
But when you’re talking about Designated Players and getting paid “too much” let’s not forget that paying a DP a lot of money doesn’t hurt the team. DP’s cost the same against the cap regardless of how much you pay them. A player who gets paid too much under the cap is the biggest issue. Because then that money really could be going to another player who’s better or deserves more money.
Designated Players really shouldn’t be ranked against their salary. They should be ranked against whether you want them on your team or not. Because what they are really taking up is a Designated Player spot. And that’s what can hurt the team.
So to really make your head swim I present the case of Dan Gargan. Gargan, as most of you remember was released from the LA Galaxy just prior to the start of the 2016 season. If you look, by team, on the Players Union salary list you won’t see Gargan listed next to LA. But if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, you can pick out an unaffiliated Dan Gargan is making $145,000 in both Base and Guaranteed Compensation.
He is one of six players that are unaffiliated to any team but are still getting paid. It’s an assumption that Gargan is probably still getting money from the LA Galaxy, but it’s also an assumption that his money does not hit the salary cap. Perhaps his contract had some guaranteed money in it, or else, why would the Galaxy still have to pay him?
Regardless, someone is paying Dan, but besides it being $145,000, it doesn’t seem to be effecting how the LA Galaxy are doing business. Plus, this means that Dan is now pulling in two paychecks, if you add in his commentary work with Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
Let’s compare year over year in total base salaries. This is going to look weird so hang in there for a second.
2015 Total Base Salary $18,965,008.08
2016 Total Base Salary $16,110,500.00
The LA Galaxy are actually showing a decrease in the amount of money they’re spending in overall salary for 2016. Nearly $3 million less ($2,854,508.08)
Remember, Robbie Keane looks like he’s taken a $1 million pay cut, but also remember that Giovani dos Santos probably has something goofy going on with his salary because of arriving for half the season.
It’s probably about the same. My estimate has it at around $1.3 million less and that’s before you take out Robbie Keane’s pay cut. The Designated Players always skew salary numbers. And honestly, that $1.3 million could also go away when you figure in Gerrard was also a midseason arrival. But his numbers don’t seem to take that into account. It’s truly a guessing game and I’m doubtful that LA has decreased it’s total salary number. Salaries tend to increase not decrease.
The bottom line finds us missing a lot of information. But that’s what happens in Major League Soccer. We’re only seeing a small portion of the picture. We don’t know how much TAM or GAM are used on any player and we realistically don’t know how close the LA Galaxy are to the Cap. And because all of that information is not released there’s no way to tell how we go about figuring that stuff out.
Below you will find my quick table that you can manipulate however you want. I’ll also include my spread sheet below that. This is where I compare year over year salaries for players we have that information for.
This is by no means a complete analysis and it’s being done by someone who is generally not that great with numbers. But I encourage you to look through it, pull out information you find interesting, and scrutinize it.
And of course, be on the look out for the Excel power users who are currently doing a league wide breakdown. That will tell you where LA stands in terms of spending and player compensation against the whole league.