Should the Columbus Crew consider trading Gyasi Zardes?

Gyasi Zardes Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew striker Gyasi Zardes is among the most consistently productive strikers in MLS, scoring over 13 goals on average per season since joining the Ohio-based side in 2018.

But would a move away from the Crew make sense for both the club and player?

That question was kicked around on Monday’s edition of Extratime presented by AT&T 5G, with Zardes a substitute in their 4-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC over MLS is Back weekend. Crew head coach Caleb Porter, addressing the striker situation postgame, stressed there’s no tension between Zardes and Miguel Berry, his Week 1 starter who maintained strong form from 2021 by scoring the opener.

An intra-league trade, anyone?

“If I was going to trade – and this is not a knock on Gyasi at all, it’s an indication of his value – it would be Gyasi because he occupies a DP spot, he’s six years older and because of his production,” host Andrew Wiebe said. “Nine goals in 1,500 minutes [last year] is good but Berry had eight in 840 [minutes]. That allows you to go reinvest with a roster spot in a different way and the Crew have shown they’ve been willing to do that in different ways.”

Wiebe floated the Colorado Rapids as a possible fit, with the reigning Western Conference regular-season winner needing a dependable No. 9 to help raise their ceiling. And while there’s no firm reason to think Zardes’ starting spot has evaporated or the 30-year-old’s on the outs, Wiebe and the group still played matchmaker.

In Matt Doyle’s eyes, Zardes would command a fee that rivals the league record-setting trade of winger Paul Arriola from D.C. United to FC Dallas earlier this offseason ($2 million in General Allocation Money, plus incentives). Any Zardes trade would free up a Designated Player spot in Columbus, with midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan their other DPs, giving club president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko further room to explore additions.

“I would think $1.5 to $2 million GAM for Gyasi,” Doyle said. “If I was Columbus, I would seriously consider it because the GAM would give you roster flexibility and opening a DP slot would give you cap flexibility.

“Gyasi’s great in the locker room, he’s been really good on the field for a long time. Berry’s entering his prime, he scores the exact same types of goals that Gyasi does. It’s tough for me to see them both at the same time.

“That’s not to say Columbus has to trade Gyasi, by any stretch. I understand the value in hanging onto both of them, but this is a salary-cap league. Sometimes in a salary-cap league, you have to be ruthless about these decisions.”

USMNT implications

Another angle, as David Gass raised, is Zardes looking to maximize playing time going into a World Cup year, should the United States qualify for Qatar 2022. He has 14 goals in 68 USMNT appearances, though decreased minutes could impact his standing in manager Gregg Berhalter’s eyes amid the Yanks’ No. 9 situation that lacks a written-in-pen solution.

“I think the biggest thing that comes out of this is Gyasi has eight months to get himself on a plane to the World Cup if the US qualifies in the final window,” Gass said. “This is the only World Cup he will ever go to. They didn’t qualify last time, this is probably it for him in terms of his career. If he’s not playing full time, then I wouldn’t even fault him for coming and saying, ‘if someone else wants to play me, I want to go.’”

Not so fast?

But, again, there’s no guarantee a trade is in the cards. Calen Carr isn’t so convinced the idea has merit, regardless of which lens it’s viewed through.

“If I would be shocked if Gyasi Zardes was traded, I would be completely shocked,” Carr said. “Now, if you want to tell me Miguel Berry might be picked up by somebody, I could see one of those same teams you’re mentioning saying, ‘Give us this guy.’ But I think even if you’re going to compete to get back into the playoffs, in Columbus’ case and with Gyasi being gone for World Cup qualifiers, things like that, you need to have multiple strikers.”