The Phipps Ripple
In a vacuum, the Ohio Machine’s decision to trade away and then to trade for goalie Scott Rodgers within 22 days seems like the type of strange behavior you would expect from post-October 14th Mapleton, NY residents. The Chesapeake Bayhawks’ decision to trade for Brian Phipps, who finished third in the 2015 Maverik Goalie of the Year voting, may seem even stranger — think Jarden, TX brides and goat-slaughterers — considering the runner-up, Tyler Fiorito, is already a Bayhawk. In reality, this peculiar ripple effect set in motion by Phipps’ spring availability may be just beginning.
Phipps, who recently finished his first season as head coach at Archbishop Spalding, would not have been able to juggle coaching with traveling to Ohio again. The Machine already lost defenseman Brian Farrell (retired to coach Boys’ Latin full-time) this offseason; fearing that he might lose another player to MIAA commitments, Vice President and Head Coach Bear Davis decided to bring back Rodgers and send Phipps to a more manageable situation in Chesapeake.
Suddenly, Fiorito — who led MLL last summer with a 60.6% save percentage — is expendable. Although the Bayhawks are not actively shopping Fiorito, multiple teams appear interested in the Princeton product. From least to most likely, here are some possible destinations for Fiorito.
Everyone appears eager to mention the Outlaws in trade rumors for a goalie. Longtime Outlaw goalie Jesse Schwartzman retired after this summer; however, All-World goalie Dillon Ward is primed to take the starting role as soon as his NLL commitments are over. If the Outlaws’ front office believes it can survive the indoor-outdoor overlap, then there is no reason to trade for Fiorito.
Imagining these teams agreeing to terms on any type of blockbuster is difficult. Between University of Denver graduates, Canadians and family members, the Outlaws’ assets are not particularly liquid. Remove the untouchables (Jeremy Sieverts and Drew Snider) from the discussion, and you are looking at a kiddie pool of players.
Former All-Star LSM Michael Simon (6–5, 215lb.) was sent to Denver as part of the John Grant Jr.-for-Brendan Mundorf trade in 2013. Domenic Sebastiani led all short-sticks with 19 caused turnovers this past summer. Both are former Bayhawks who would be welcomed back to Chesapeake with open arms — but I do not believe the Outlaws would trade them away.
Denver’s defense was a dangerous combination of slide-happy and slow-footed in 2015; it was ranked worst in MLL on a per possession basis last summer, per LaxDirt.com. Losing arguably its two best cover defenders would be a step backward. The Outlaws’ problems in front of the crease are more pressing than those inside it. Ryan LaPlante and Austin Geisler are serviceable options during Ward’s absence.
Opposing coaches have frequently questioned the Hounds’ undying faith in a build-through-the-draft philosophy. Player potential and post-graduate availability are generally glaring question marks during the January draft; banking on a set of 22-year-olds to come in midseason and save your season is ill-advised. With the second and fourth overall picks in this upcoming draft (and no imminent trade for the top overall pick), the Hounds can either stay with a broken strategy or trade for a known commodity.
If they elect to go down the latter path, then what type of player do the Hounds go after? Pierce Bassett struggled in his first season as a full-time goalie, saving just 48.7% of shots on cage. Fiorito would be a major upgrade, but ponying up additional assets after trading the 24th overall collegiate draft pick for Charlie Cipriano seems unlikely. Consider the Hounds to be minor players for Fiorito, but major players to make a splash elsewhere.
Those high first round picks have been thrown around in a handful of rumors since the Myles Jones trade talks died down. One coach suggested that he would go after Peter Baum aggressively if he were the Hounds. Another mentioned that another Machine midfielder, and current Charlotte resident, Kyle Harrison would fill a need for the Hounds while providing the Machine with picks to recuperate a roster that was hit hard in the expansion draft aftermath.
It could take both those picks (and potentially more) for Bear Davis to even pick up the phone. A deal like that would be uncharacteristic for the Hounds, who seem to prefer playing the penny slots a thousand times to a $10 roulette table once. But uncharacteristic deals may be the new norm in Charlotte. Earlier this offseason the Hounds shook up their front office and, so far, they have made an effort to incorporate more box lacrosse players with April conflicts. Change has been the motto; whether the Hounds will continue to practice what they have preached remains to be seen.
Remember when the Cannons deferred their crop of goalies prior to the expansion draft? Well, the Atlanta Blaze scooped Adam Ghitelman up and rumors about Jordan Burke retiring from MLL have circulated. The Cannons’ front office conveys full confidence in Jack Murphy as a starting goalie in the league, but the opportunity to add Fiorito would be tempting.
In addition to owning a surplus of draft picks via “The Paul Rabil Trade,” Boston’s roster is loaded with prototypical Bayhawks. When the Steinfeld Cup lived in the Mid-Atlantic, the Bayhawks had a deep stable of explosive midfielders with 2-point range. Kevin Buchanan, Max Seibald, Brent Adams and John Glesener are untouchable; Rob Emery and Tyler German might be interesting options, though.
The Cannons have both the widest variety of assets and most enticing assets of this group; plus, they probably have the greatest need for Fiorito. While the most logical trade partner is Boston, even that deal is far from guaranteed.
Often, trade rumors that last long enough to warrant this type of article are just that — rumors. Most trades (i.e. Ned Crotty-for-Dave Lawson) are born organically and instantly based on one team’s need (i.e. New York’s lack of cap space) alignming with the other team’s preference (i.e. Rochester’s familiarity with Crotty). Multiple buyers could help drive up Fiorito’s market price, but it should not take long before that price soars above the Outlaws’ and Hounds’ budgets.
In the end the Bayhawks are completely content dressing both Phipps and Fiorito. After all, Fiorito stopped (and saw) more shots than any goalie in MLL last summer. The Bayhawks will not garner much sympathy across the league if they enter the season with this goalie “problem.”
Joe has been covering MLL for various sites since 2011. He joins LaxDirt.com’s James Boger and Tom Bovee on the radio on Tuesday nights when he’s not cheating his way to fourth place in trivia at Chili’s. Follow him on Twitter at @joekeegs.