After the Columbus Crew missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, and the team dismissed the leadership pairing of Robert Warzycha and Brian Bliss, it was perhaps inevitable that changes would come. Few fans were prepared, however, when news broke late last week that defender Chad Marshall - a 10-year veteran who was one of the few remaining players from the 2008 championship team - was traded to Seattle.
Marshall, of course, is not the only player to have left the club this offseason. Shortly after the season ended, news broke that Eddie Gaven was retiring, calling an end to a career that started at the young age of 17. A handful of other players have either been waived (Glauber, Danny O'Rourke, Matias Sanchez, Jairo Arrieta and Konrad Warzycha) or had their contracts expire (Andy Gruenebaum). Three other players who were on the roster but did not play last year have also departed: Aaron Horton, Kyle Hyland, and Drew Beckie.
Given all of these departures, however, it may come as a surprise to hear that - in comparison to past seasons - the Crew roster is still more stable than it has been for several years. Additionally, several players who officially have left the team may yet re-join provided new contracts can be negotiated.
Taken together, the eight currently-departed players appeared for a combined 11,822 minutes in 2013 - 33% of the team total. This is measurably lower than the proportion of departed players over the past three years (44% of total minutes after 2010, 49% after 2011, and 42% after 2012).
Considered as a class, the eight players to leave thus far is also significantly smaller than the departures over the last three seasons. The drastic rebuilding after the 2010 season, in which Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk and so many others were dismissed, encompassed 11 players. That figure was actually higher the two years, when 15 (2011) and 14 (2012) players did not return the following year.
One data point that is particularly relevant, given the coaching turnover, is to look at the last time the Crew went into a season with a similarly new coaching staff. When Sigi Schmid took control before the 2006 season, the rebuilding he initiated turned the club into essentially an expansion team. Two thirds of the 2005 team - measured both by playing time (65%) and number of players (69%) did not return for his first year in charge. Of the 27 players who had joined the club over the previous two years, only six played for Schmid - and two of those (Danny Szetela and John Wolyniec) saw less than 300 minutes of action.
Perhaps the most significant metric by which to measure the Crew's departures, however, is by their salaries. Dispatch reporter Adam Jardy assessed the team's salary budget based on data released by the players union, and figures that the Crew shed more than 1.4 million dollars - almost half the total cap.
It should be remembered, of course, that the offseason is not over. There are three discrete opportunities for roster changes still to come - the second phase of the reentry draft takes place this coming week, the SuperDraft comes in January, and the team's preseason camp opens in February. Each brings opportunities for trades, retirements, and waivers - so by the time the 2014 season opens on March 8, the Crew lineup could still have been drastically rebuilt under the watchful eyes of Berhalter, Asher Mendelsohn and Josh Wolff.