Rumors have been swirling, mostly from Steve Goff, that D.C. United and Perry Kitchen are far apart in their negotiations for a contract extension. Kitchen has been a key player for United since 2011; in his first season, he was surprisingly good at right back even though that was not his natural position. Since then, he has locked down defensive midfield for the team, and has quickly climbed the ranks of the D.C. United players with the most caps. However, his play this season, combined with the rumors of his possible departure lead me to wonder: Should United keep Perry Kitchen and, if so, at what cost?
United signed Markus Halsti this offseason, a Finnish veteran with UEFA Champions League experience. He plays basically the same position as Kitchen, as he needs to be the deepest lying midfielder in order to be most effective. These past two games Ben Olsen has tried to see if Halsti and Kitchen can form an effective partnership, but there is another possibility: that Olsen and Dave Kasper signed Halsti with the intent of him replacing Kitchen after this season.
At a baseline, I think we can all agree that Bill Hamid is a more important player for United than Kitchen is. Kitchen has been a rock of a midfielder these past few years, but Bill Hamid is an otherworldly talent and a better player at his position than Kitchen is at his. Hamid's new contract gave him a base salary of $360,000 and total compensation of $405,000; basically, he is coming close to a designated player contract without actually signing one.
With that said, should United spend as much money on Perry Kitchen as they do on Bill Hamid? Especially given his play so far this season, my thought is no. Even at his past, in 2014, Kitchen was not the most vital player on the team; in 2015, he is probably in the middle of the pack.
All of this leads to an interesting question: if Kitchen may not be here next year, is he good enough to demand a starting spot week in and week out? In the face of a long winless streak, it has to be called into question who United's best central midfielders are. Markus Halsti, Perry Kitchen, and Michael Farfan have all gotten relatively equal amounts of time at practice recently; it could be reasonably argued that Halsti and Farfan would be United's best midfield pairing right now. And if that is the case, the amount of money that United would theoretically offer Kitchen goes down even further.
What do you think? Who should start in central midfield? And how much would you pay to keep Perry Kitchen?