As Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers and Technical Director Brian Bliss alluded to on Thursday, the Black & Gold could consider trading their ninth overall pick in next Thursday's SuperDraft given the flexibility that has come with signing potential First Round selections Chad Barson and Wil Trapp as Homegrown players.
Columbus has executed trades involving First Round picks six times in club history, most recently drafting Justin Meram with the 15th overall pick in 2011 after sending allocation money and Steven Lenhart to the San Jose Earthquakes. The Crew has traded its First Round pick away three times: 2000 (third overall), 2007 (second overall) and 2009 (15th overall). In those trades, the Black & Gold acquired established talent in Dante Washington, Andy Herron and Pat Noonan, respectively.
Unable to project a prospect's future success, McCullers and Bliss would consider doing the same as a safer bet in 2013.
"I know the fans are always excited about a new player and a high Draft pick, and as well they should be," Bliss explained. "But as we've seen in the past couple of years the quality of the League has gone up significantly and that's been partially because of Designated Players and partially because of team's doing better homework in terms of guys they're bringing in. Cracking a roster at a younger age has been more difficult, not only with the Crew, but at other teams. Sometimes if you're really in need of something, it may be better to trade and know that you're going to get a proven starter. Obviously, it depends on each individual team's needs."
"There are opportunities out there and I think, generally speaking, if it fits into the plan of the club and you can get a known commodity, it's certainly the safer thing to do. We've got a little bit of riverboat gambler in us, so I don't mind rolling the dice and taking good calculated risk," McCullers added.
McCullers and Bliss are currently in Fort Lauderdale for the MLS Player Combine, where trade talks typically gain momentum ahead of the SuperDraft.
"A lot of the deals get done prior to leaving Fort Lauderdale or the evening before the Draft in the bar, and it's usually four beers and a prayer at that point," Bliss elaborated. "That's how the action usually takes place. It really takes place the day of the Draft on the phone. Although you see a lot of people on the phone, it's typically them re-confirming what was talked about the night before or the day you left Fort Lauderdale."
If the Crew decides to hold on to the ninth pick, the team is comfortable with making a careful decision based on its needs and the player's skill. In the end, selecting a player in the SuperDraft that goes on to be a superstar in MLS often speaks to the scouting and development ability of a club's technical staff.
"That's the exciting part of it," McCullers said. "Draft picks are the hope of making that great selection that people are going to look at for years to come and say, 'Wow, look at what they did with that pick,' especially the lower round picks. In this sport, in this situation, you can turn a supplemental pick into a starter in this League."