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February 23, 2012 at 3:39 PM

The uncertain case of O’Brian White

white mug.jpgIt has been the unanswerable question of Sounders FC’s preseason:

What about O’Brian White?

As we know, the 26-year-old forward is still dealing with a complex and uncertain recovery from recurring blood clots in his left leg; the issue has required two surgeries that we know of since last April.

This year, White is yet to rejoin training and indications have been that he’s still got a long way to go. Earlier this week, coach Sigi Schmid said the team was motivated to trade for forward Eddie Johnson in part due to White’s health, and deal might not have been pursued if the Jamaican was healthy.

“But that wasn’t the situation,” Schmid said. “That’s not where we were at, and we have a concern certainly as to when O’Brian is going to be able to play again or come back.”

So is there something Seattle can do regarding the uncertainty with White in 2012?

Well, here’s one viable option.

MLS teams are allowed to buy out one guaranteed contract per season. If you remember back to the 2011 season opener, that’s what the Sounders did with designated player Blaise Nkufo. Here’s the language from the MLS roster rules posted online:

* * *

BUYOUT OF GUARANTEED CONTRACT

— A Team may buy out one (1) guaranteed player (including a DP’s) contract during the off-season and free up the corresponding budget space. Such a buyout is at the particular MLS Team’s own expense.

* * *

Let’s take a closer look.

Since White is entering his fourth season in the league, his contract became guaranteed for the whole year once the team picked up his option, as dictated by the new collective bargaining agreement. Now if Seattle elects to use this mechanism and buy out his contract — and the club could do so anytime up to opening day — it would prevent White’s six-figure salary from counting against the $2.81 million cap in 2012.

According to details released last year by the players’ union, White made $100,000 last season and would likely stand to make more in 2012.

Another thing to note in regards to potentially buying out White’s contract is that the Sounders would retain the right of first refusal. So in the unlikely scenario that another team made White an offer — which I really couldn’t imagine due to what he’s facing — Seattle could match it.

And in the circumstance of a buyout, White could still rehab with the team and feel like a part of the group in hopes of returning to action in 2013.

Again, this is just an option. White is still undergoing tests and the Sounders are seeking many opinions when it comes to his case to ensure the best course of treatment. If there’s good news and marked progress in the near future, Seattle could also elect to put White on the disabled list with hopes of bringing him back sometime during the season.

It’s certainly a difficult and sensitive situation for the team, but I hope this post helps to provide a little clarity to an available option.

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