READ: Why Toronto FC have some leverage in upcoming contract negotiations with Jonathan Osorio
Negotiating a new contract with Jonathan Osorio will be one of the more pressing items on Toronto FC’s agenda entering this upcoming offseason.
Osorio, the franchise leader in appearances made (318), is out of contract at the end of the year and is poised to enter MLS free agency.
"I've been more focused on getting back from this [head] injury. […] I think where my head is at, I'm just trying to focus on finishing the season and then after that we'll see what's there,” said Osorio on his contract talks with TFC earlier this month.
Unlike last offseason, when the 30-year-old midfielder, with one year remaining on his contract, made it clear that he wanted to challenge himself at a higher level abroad, Osorio now has leverage in his ongoing negotiations with his hometown club given that he is eligible and free to sign a contract with any team not in MLS.
One aspect that Toronto FC will have the upper hand on, however, is that according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was ratified in 2021 and runs through 2027, TFC may be the only club in MLS that is eligible to offer Osorio a noteworthy raise. To be specific, since Osorio is making between the Max Salary ($612,500) and Max TAM ($1,612,500), TFC is the only team in the league that could offer him more than a 15 per cent raise on his next deal (h/t Tom Bogert). As Bogert notes, there are sections of the CBA that often contain clauses that include "league discretion," though this specific part does appear to be pretty black-and-white.
Figures released by the Player’s Association earlier this year have the Brampton, Ont., native making just a shade over $1 million in guaranteed compensation (1.026 mil), meaning the most that other teams in the league could offer Osorio in free agency would be a modest raise at roughly $1.18 million per season. Toronto would be the only team in MLS that could offer Osorio a Designated Player contract (greater than $1,612,500 per season) – or a figure remotely close to that. Could another team in the league get creative and offer a sign-and-trade type of deal for Osorio? Perhaps, but it’s unprecedented and highly unlikely.
TFC fans that were dreading the possibility of seeing their beloved No. 21 potentially suit up for Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps or CF Montréal should breathe a sigh of relief. Toronto FC are in the best position, in MLS at least, to re-sign Osorio given that the box-to-box midfielder will likely command a decent raise following what many would argue was his best season of his career.
In 23 appearances this year, Osorio registered nine goals and six assists (two less goal contributions than 2018 in seven fewer appearances). Perhaps even more telling, without him in the lineup this season, Toronto FC have taken just four out of a possible 27 points (1W-1D-7L).
“There’s no doubt that when you take certain guys that make a difference, that give your team control, that give your team some special qualities in attack, that become the backbone of a good team, when those guys are not on the field, then you have to find ways to deal with that. Other guys get chances, but yeah, you lose something, so Oso would absolutely be one of those guys,” said Toronto FC Head Coach and Sporting Director Bob Bradley earlier this month.
Contract talks are ongoing but are not progressing between Osorio and TFC. While he cited his recovery from “a neurological dysfunction” as the reason, it’s looking more and more like Osorio is hoping that a strong performance with the Canadian men’s national team at the FIFA World Cup in November increases his value with not only Toronto, but potentially bigger clubs overseas.
Osorio, himself, told The Parleh back in June that wants to keep his options open for as long as possible and that the only way he’d consider signing with TFC in-season would be if the club made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
“I want to keep my options open to everything and they know that,” said Osorio at the time in a 1-on-1 with The Parleh. “Unless they offer something you can’t deny, then for me, I think I’ll have my options open for as long as I can.”
With Osorio now on the wrong side of 30, this upcoming contract will likely be his final opportunity to cash in. Understandably, he may be looking to get paid.
On the other hand, Toronto may be hesitant to shell out term and a significant raise given Osorio’s injury history. He has not logged more than 2000 minutes in MLS since 2018 and has missed the better part of 12 matches this year thanks to a variety of injuries – including his latest head injury.
Toronto FC have been burned in the past by giving out big contracts to club legends over 30 (see: Jozy Altidore) and will likely proceed with caution. That said, TFC do remain very much interested in re-signing Osorio, but it’s likely they’ll have to fend off competition from other clubs overseas — after the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
John Herdman's Canada open the tournament on Nov. 23 vs. World No 2 Belgium before rounding out group-stage action against World No. 15 Croatia on Nov. 27 and World No. 23 Morocco on Dec. 1.
For what it’s worth, one source within the club told The Parleh that if Osorio did re-sign, he’d be in line to become the next captain of Toronto FC once Michael Bradley retires.