MLL Trade Value: Part 1

Over a decade ago, Bill Simmons began ranking basketball players in his annual ‘NBA Trade Value’ column. The rules are simple: Talent, salary and age all matter. If two equally talented players earn different amounts, then the cheaper one has more ‘trade value.’ Similarly, younger players are often viewed as more valuable. The idea of the list is that if the general manager of Team A calls the general manager of Team B and offers Player 19 for Player 20, then Team B will accept–or at least think about it.

Just a couple years ago, Bill Barnwell began an annual ‘NFL Trade Value’ column. This is admittedly a much more difficult task, since football teams field many more players. The tradeoff between players is far from clear. Ask three GMs to rank Julio Jones, Von Miller and Eric Winston. Each could give a different combination and provide perfectly logical reasoning for it. This makes Barnwell’s job much more difficult. I think he puts a bit too much weight into salary. [He ranked RGIII and Matt Ryan ahead of Tom Brady because they have a smaller cap hit.] Otherwise, Barnwell’s annual piece is excellent.

This year, I am bringing the tradition to lacrosse. Here are my rules: Talent matters. Age matters. Salary… well, it doesn’t really even exist in professional lacrosse. Lots of these guys work second jobs. Those who do make a living off lacrosse usually do so with endorsements. Earnings don’t matter for my piece–but personality does.

Why? Professional lacrosse is young and growing; players who help it grow are more valuable to your team. Some players can put fans in the stands and sell jerseys because of reputation. While winning might be the main priority, selling tickets is a close second. Personas won’t matter in this as much as salaries mattered in Barnwell’s piece, but I’d be lying if I said they were a non-factor.

Without further ado, here is my first annual MLL/LXM Trade Value column–starting with the toughest omissions:

Five rookies from the class of 2013 [not including Rob Pannell] made the cut. There are a handful of rookies that we just didn’t see enough. I’m excited for the sophomore seasons of Eric Law, Will Manny, Cam Flint, Dave Lawson, JoJo Marasco, Josh Hawkins and Marcus Holman. I could definitely see a few of these guys playing their way into next year’s trade value column and making me regret omitting them. [Quick ranking of likelihood to do so: Flint, Holman, Hawkins, Marasco, Lawson, Manny, Law.]

Are Casey Powell, Ryan Boyle, Kevin Leveille, Casey Cittadino and Brian Spallina too old to play? Nope. They’ll all compete at high levels this season. I just don’t think their market value is through the roof at this point in their careers, so I left them off the list.

[Sidenote: You’ll see some old players on this list. You might wonder why Matt Striebel or Kyle Sweeney made the cut over these guys. Here’s my reasoning: Besides Leveille, none of these guys advanced far in tryouts for Team USA. The “old” guys who made the list all went deep in the selection process and will be in tremendous shape this summer. Some might be playing with a little edge after getting cut, too.]

Some of the best short-stick defensive midfielders in the game missed the cut. Kevin Drew, Jeff Reynolds, Dan Burns and Dan Groot don’t get enough credit for what they do. I hate to leave them off the list. I just cannot picture one of the 50 players on this list being traded straight up for them. As Michael Evans said at the draft, Major League Lacrosse is a one-on-one league. With a 60-second shot clock, there is little time to waste playing cat-and-mouse games. Teams are using two-way midfielders to push the tempo and to create favorable one-on-one matchups. Swing guys are more valuable, even though Drew, Reynolds, Burns and Groot are lockdown defenders.

50. Matt Striebel–M–New York Lizards

The 10-year veteran might be the savviest player in the league. He ages like fine wine, finding a new way to stay competitive and relevant each year. Over the last three years he has become a lethal two-point shooter. He single-handedly buried more two-pointers than New York, Boston and Ohio this summer. Although Ned Crotty is the bigger name, Striebel might be the bigger offseason acquisition for the Lizards. His timely dodging and overall knowledge of the game will drastically improve a very weak midfield unit.

49. Kyle Sweeney–LSM–Boston Cannons

During my “MLL versus” series, I never featured Kyle Sweeney. If I had to compare him to a current NBA or NFL player, then it’d be Kevin Garnett. Sweeney doesn’t have the screaming, head-banging, chest-pounding personality. That part of KG is more like Sweeney’s former teammate, Jack Reid.

The part of Sweeney that resembles KG is his screening. While slightly more legal than Garnett’s screens, Sweeney’s screens tend to make referees’ hands flinch. He loves to push the ball in transition, and more often than not, he finds himself in a prime screening area behind the cage or on the crease. Sometimes he takes a wide stance like KG and screens; other times he tries not-so-subtle rubs like this:

Or this…

48. Garrett Thul–A–Florida Launch

Realistically, teams wouldn’t trade much for Thul. His time in the league is most likely limited due to his Army commitments. Jeremy Boltus, the 2011 Rookie of the Year, recently deployed for Afghanistan after just 33 games in Major League Lacrosse. Bottom line: Cherish Thul while he is here.

And please, come up with a nickname for this guy! Bull dodge doesn’t cut it.

Watch as he backs down Justin Pennington with ease. If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of a truck backing up:

47. Brendan Porter–SSDM–LXM Pro Tour

MLL fans who don’t watch the LXM Pro Tour are missing out. Lots of the Tour players bring familiar styles. Tim Desko is a flashy Cody Jamieson [which is saying something, because Jamieson has had his share of highlight reel goals]. Johnny Christmas has some shades of Ryan Boyle in his game. Porter? He’s different from everyone in MLL.

Porter has the size and speed to match up with the best offensive midfielders in lacrosse. Even with a short-stick, he might be the best cover guy on the LXM Pro Tour. Each week, he draws the toughest assignment [the Team STX midfielders]. Each week, he dominates.

After being used primarily on defense at Rutgers, he has capitalized on his limited offensive chances on the Tour. On both sides of the field, he plays with an out-to-prove-something attitude. Count on him holding his own in Major League Lacrosse this summer.

46. Brandon Corp–A–LXM Pro Tour

You always hear people talk about sophomore slumps in MLL. After a player’s rookie season [which is also the summer immediately after his senior season in college], each season becomes tougher. Committing oneself to training in the offseason and juggling a full-time job is nearly impossible. Players ‘peak’ well before their athletic prime.

The less rigorous Tour schedule can lead to more dramatic drop-offs. That makes it tough to rank these guys among MLL players. Even Corp, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 MLL Collegiate Draft and played some games with the Cannons, has changed so much since the last time we saw him competing against MLL talent. As much as we watch him play on the Tour, there’s a lot we don’t know about him. We can’t judge him accurately until we see him play against MLL athletes. That is an admitted flaw of this column, for Corp and for all Tour players.

Here’s what we do know about him: Corp is one of the most athletic attackmen in lacrosse. Dodging from X, he moves like a right-handed Ned Crotty. He accelerates so well, he almost always beats his defender to his spot. Like Crotty, he has a knack for getting his shot off before the slide arrives. Corp and Crotty both drop their sticks at the last second to increase their angle as they round the crease. They’ve mastered the art of scoring dirty goals while staying clean.

45. Mike Stone–M–Boston Cannons

Stone’s league-wide value is high; he has quickly become one of the best shooters in MLL. If you ask the Cannons his value though, they might rank him No. 2. The guy is a fan favorite. He’s a down-to-earth former D3 player. He co-founded a non-profit organization called GivingSomeThing. Any city would love him–but nobody loves him more than Boston.

Kevin Barney wouldn’t even answer the phone regarding a Stone trade, so this No. 45 label deserves an asterisk. Harvard Stadium produces a booming “LET’S GO STONE-Y” chant every game. Half of the stadium wears a 99 jersey, while the other half wears a 41 jersey. I’m convinced the entire town of Wellesley has season tickets. You can’t put a price tag on what Stone brings to the Cannons. Just listen to the crowd erupt after his goal; they don’t even get this loud when Paul Rabil scores:

44. Max Seibald–M–New York Lizards

Labeling Seibald as a midfielder isn’t entirely accurate. He isn’t a midfielder like Striebel or Stone. He is a serviceable defender, and [unless he is facing a ride of Kenny Nims, Joel White, Stephen Keogh and Matt Abbott] he is a one-man clear.

The surplus of weapons on this Lizards offense should free up Seibald for his 111 miles-per-hour shot this summer. He could net 20-plus goals, but his value is as a swing guy. He’ll do the dirty work to help this team win games. That’s why he’s on the list.

43. Drew Westervelt–A–Chesapeake Bayhawks

MLL teammate Brian Spallina was livid–like, more than he usually is–when Westervelt was cut from Team USA. I can’t argue with him; Westervelt is a great talent and brings a unique style. He passes like Matt Poskay shoots. His mind is made up before the pass. The ball is never in his crosse for more than a few seconds. For a man his size, he has surprisingly soft hands and a gentle touch.

If secondary assists were a statistic, then Westervelt would be the MLL all-time leader. (Sidenote: Let’s count secondary assists in lacrosse. Don’t give two assists per goal–track primary and secondary assists as two different metrics.) His passing and low-angle shooting makes him an excellent EMO player.

With all that said, was he snubbed from Team USA? I don’t think so. There can only be a snub if there’s a player on the roster unworthy of the spot. Spallina would tell you there are a few, but I disagree. It’s cliché, but Coach Meade and his staff were trying to select the best team–not the best players. We’ll have to wait until July before questioning the selection process.

42. Tom Schreiber–M–Ohio Machine

Entering the offseason, midfield was a glaring need for the Ohio Machine. It was rebuilt, destroyed and rebuilt even stronger in a span of one month. Never doubt GM John Algie. I think he might be bulimic.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened: They traded for Stephen Peyser. They added Bill McGlone. They drafted Schreiber and Rob Guida. They dealt Peyser to Chesapeake. Then, the rights to frequently inverted attackman Peter Baum became valuable when LXM Pro merged with MLL. And then, the top selection of the remaining LXM Pro players turned into Sam Bradman.

Oh, wait… that hasn’t happened yet. If we’ve learned one thing from the Machine this offseason, it’s this: Don’t assume you know their next move. But if they do select Bradman, then this midfield transformed from an eyesore to a beauty queen in just over a month. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited.

41. Brett Schmidt – D – Charlotte Hounds

Most MLL offenses are midfield-oriented. A defender like Schmidt, who typically guards opposing attackmen, is easy to overlook. He is not a flashy defender, but he is very sound. If you’re looking for a highlight tape of takeaway checks, search for Joel White or Tucker Durkin. If you want a championship resume, look at Schmidt.

As a senior, he held Steele Stanwick to one assist in the 2011 National Championship. He has held players like Tommy Palasek and Billy Bitter pointless. In three years as a starter at Maryland, Schmidt made one National Championship and two quarterfinals. In three years as a pro, Schmidt has made Championship Weekend twice. Success like that, at both the collegiate and professional level, is not a coincidence.

Click here to continue to Part 2

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