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Which MLP Teams Could Be Looking to Upgrade During the First Waiver Period?

by Erik Tice on

The first waiver wire period for Major League Pickleball kicks off Thursday, where teams at both the Premier and Challenger levels will be able to tinker with their rosters. 

The Premier Level waiver wire kicks off at noon ET Thursday, with two rounds of picks allowable. On Friday at noon ET, the Challenger Level waiver wire will take place, also with two rounds of picks.

How it works: Once a team is "on the clock" they will have 15 minutes to make an add and drop to their roster, if they so choose. Teams do not have to drop or add any players during this waiver period.

How the order of picks is made: The waiver order is in reverse of the current MLP standings (best teams get to pick last, while the worst teams get to pick first). This is made more complicated because teams have completed different numbers of matches - which is why points per match is important.

Here are the criteria for deciding order:

  • Points per match
  • First tiebreaker: Match win percentage
  • Second tiebreaker: Games won percentage

Waiver Wire order for Premier and Challenger levels

Premier Level

  1. Utah Black Diamonds
  2. Carolina Pickleball Club
  3. Arizona Drive
  4. Columbus Sliders
  5. Orlando Squeeze
  6. LA Mad Drops
  7. Texas Ranchers
  8. DC Pickleball Team
  9. NY Hustlers 
  10. Dallas Flash
  11. New Jersey 5s
  12. St. Louis Shock

Challenger Level

  1. California Black Bears
  2. Chicago Slice
  3. SoCal Hard Eights
  4. Florida Smash
  5. Miami Pickleball Club
  6. Frisco Pandas
  7. Atlanta Bouncers
  8. Brooklyn Aces
  9. Bay Area Breakers
  10. Las Vegas Night Owls

News ahead of the first waiver wire period

Someone has crossed the picket line! So to speak ...

On March 28th, Megan Fudge (and her husband Ryler DeHeart), announced they were not playing MLP in 2024

Tuesday night on Twitter Fudge posted this:

Having a look at her social media account, it seems that Fudge had already made commitments to her schedule that conflicted with the first two events of Major League Pickleball, and therefore could not commit to Atlanta and D.C.

During MLP Atlanta, Fudge was playing the APP Cincinnati. During MLP Washington D.C., Fudge and family were in India, playing for the APP Tour on an international level.

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Now that those commitments are done, it looks like Fudge is ready to play Major League Pickleball.

How would that work? 

Obviously Fudge is not a signed UPA player; she is a signed APP Tour player. If a team wanted to sign her, they would need her to sign a UPA contract and presumably pay $20,000 – $10k to the league and $10k to the player. This is similar to what the New Jersey 5s had to do when they drafted Will Howells.

What makes Fudge’s announcement more interesting is that this is the first time in MLP history that Premier Level teams can add free agents via the waiver wire. Do I think that is going to happen? No. But it is a possibility.

I have read rumors online about the Black Diamonds replacing Alix Truong with Fudge, but I just don’t see it happening for a few reasons:

  • Utah doesn’t seem to want to spend extra money and it would cost them $20,000
  • Connor Pardoe is loyal to his signed players and Utah-based players, and Alix Truong is both
  • Truong was drafted based on her future potential – not her current level of play. She needs time to get acclimated to MLP Premier Level

Additionally, with Fudge basically giving up on the first two events in MLP, GMs and owners are going to be a little wary, with the worry that she may back out of more events in the future if the APP has conflicting events. That situation already exists in October, with the MLP Miami conflicting with the APP Southern California.

Fudge is a very good Challenger Level woman and a fringe level Premier Level player. If I had to put odds on it, I think Fudge goes early on Friday in the Challenger Level waiver wire. Teams like the California Black Bears, Chicago Slice, and the Florida Smash make the most sense.

Waiver wire predictions

No Premier Level team will make a waiver move

This is not to say all the Premier Level teams are happy with their current standings and/or players – far from it. However, no free agent player on the market is good enough to just drop a Premier Level player. Premier Level teams will be looking to make trades instead.

At least one trade will happen before the waiver wire begins

Here are the Premier Level teams who MAY be looking to make a trade:

  • Utah Black Diamonds - The worst record in all of MLP with zero wins
  • Carolina Pickleball Club - Did not meet expectations in D.C. and probably need a new face to bring a different energy
  • AZ Drive - Still have the "two left-sided women" problem, but I like both Lacy and Kaitlyn
  • Columbus Sliders - Didn’t have a good MLP Atlanta and didn’t get to play in D.C.
  • Orlando Squeeze - They have the "two right-sided women" problem, but Viv and Parris just finished fourth at PPA Sacramento

Potential trades involving Premier Level players

  • Alix Truong (Utah Black Diamonds) and $75,000 for Allyce Jones (D.C. Pickleball Team)
    • Likelihood of Utah trading Truong: <20 percent

If Utah truly doesn’t care about results right now and wants to focus on Utah-based players, then they stand pat. Truong is the player on the team who would be under consideration if they do choose to go another direction. Honestly, I wouldn’t love a drop or trade of Truong – you picked her for her potential and you need to give her time to grow into the MLP game.

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D.C. is in a great position right now, sitting in fifth place in terms of points per match. However, D.C. has only won three of nine women’s doubles matches, so they might have an ear open for a possible trade. Truong adds immediate firepower and is very good in singles. Sure, D.C. would miss out on Allyce’s steadiness, but Truong can win more points with her offense than Jones.

The Black Diamonds would be getting another veteran Utah player who brings a ton of energy in MLP. I think it would take some money from Utah to push the deal through.

Other realistic potential trade targets for Utah: Meghan Dizon

  • Andrea Koop (Carolina Pickleball Team) and $150,000 for Lina Padegimaite (Brooklyn Aces)
    • Likelihood of Carolina trading Koop or Irvine: 50 percent

Koop and Irvine are a problem together. They didn’t play well in D.C. and their chemistry was ... lacking. Koop is the better singles player, but Ben Johns may choose to keep Jessie instead of Koop because he likes playing mixed doubles with her. 

Padegimaite is a left-sided player both in women’s and mixed doubles. This pickup could allow Collin Johns to play mixed on the right side or left side - whatever the situation needs. Lina is also based in Texas, which is a plus for the Johns'.

Other realistic potential trade targets for Carolina: Tammy Emmrich, Genie Erokhina, Ewa Radzikowska

  • Lacy Schneemann (AZ Drive) for Parris Todd (Orlando Squeeze)
    • Likelihood of AZ/Orlando making this trade: 10 percent

These two teams have opposite problems: Lacy and Kaitlyn Christian both like playing the left in women’s, and Parris and Vivienne David both like playing the right.

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With their results, this may not be a problem for either team and they both might stand pat. However, if either team is looking to make a change, this is an obvious one. I don’t know how well Kaitlyn and Parris get along, but knowing both of their competitive personalities, I think they would hit it off.

Lacy and Vivienne David have played together on the PPA Tour and would be a very dynamic women’s team if they were to team up. Another bonus is that Tyson McGuffin also has experience playing with Lacy Schneemann, so the connections are there with the Orlando Squeeze.

At least four trades or moves are made in the Challenger Level

Here are the Challenger Level teams who may be looking to make a move:

  • California Black Bears - Had a terrible MLP Washington D.C. event, winning only four points in seven matches, but they were without DJ Young
  • Chicago Slice - The Slice also had a terrible debut in D.C., winning only two points from three matches
  • SoCal Hard Eights - The Hard Eights are very good at gender doubles and very bad at mixed doubles
  • Florida Smash - The Smash have had back-to-back bad MLP events and only have nine points in seven matches
  • Miami Pickleball Club - Averaging 1.43 points per match probably isn’t going to get this team to the playoffs

Potential trades in the Challenger level

  • Emily Cederquist (Black Bears) and $30,000 to the SoCal Hard Eights for Christine Maddox
    • Likelihood the Black Bears trade Cederquist: 10 percent

Cederquist, formerly Emily Ackerman, is a very good Challenger Level player and doesn’t deserve to get dropped. In the circumstances she is in, however, she is not set up for success. 

She has to play the left side in mixed with Rafa Hewett and also in women’s with Hendry being a lefty. Maddox is good on the left in mixed and could provide an upgrade in Dreambreakers. 

SoCal has really struggled in mixed doubles, so hopefully Cederquist could help them there, bringing some needed steadiness.

  • The Slice drop Kelsey Grambeau for Megan Fudge
    • Likelihood that Chicago trades/drops Grambeau: 33 percent

We are only talking about three matches. The Slice has 18 more matches this year. They should not be in panic mode quite yet. Maybe Grambeau can pick up her game at the Mid-Season Tournament in a month. 

Grambeau had an ugly stat line from D.C.: 0/6 in her doubles matches, averaging losses of more than seven points per match, and she won 39 percent of her Dreambreaker points. 

The Slice needs someone solid on the left side in mixed doubles who can support Jack Munro. Fudge can certainly do that – even though she is used to playing the right in mixed doubles. She usually plays the left in women’s doubles and is very comfortable there.

Other players the Slice could consider: Cass Hoag, Shelby Bates, Christa Gecheva, Daria Walczak, Liz Truluck and Alex Walker - these two are signed UPA players, meaning it would not cost the team anything to sign them.

  • The Florida Smash drop Martina Frantova for Cass Hoag
    • Likelihood that Florida drops Frantova: 33 percent

Frantova has been very good with Tammy Emmrich in women’s doubles, winning 57 percent of their matches. However, Frantova is only winning mixed doubles at a 29 percent rate. Travis Rettenmaier is the owner and team captain, so he could be looking to upgrade the team in terms of mixed doubles.

Hoag could provide some more steadiness on the right side. She doesn’t have a ton of high-level experience, but might just need a chance to prove herself. Hoag has a good two-handed backhand drive and can play consistently at the kitchen line. Also, Hoag is in Florida and could probably practice with Travis consistently.

The Smash could consider the same other players as listed above for the Slice to consider.

  • The Florida Smash drop Pat Smith and permanently pick up Yates Johnson
    • Likelihood the Smash drops Smith: Tough to say, because we don’t know how bad his eye injury is

Pat Smith had an eye injury and sometimes those take a while to heal. If it extends into the Mid-Season Tournament, the Smash may be forced to drop Smith.

Yates Johnson is an upgrade for Smith in two categories – mixed doubles and singles. Yates won three of four mixed doubles games in D.C. and went 8-12 in Dreambreaker points. 

You may say 40 percent isn’t good in Dreambreakers, but remember a Dreambreaker is a team effort. Yates can slide into the No. 1 guy slot, moving Travis to No. 2, making him more effective as a singles player. With Pat Smith on the team, Travis has to play as the No. 1 against the best players.

If Travis liked the chemistry with Yates in men’s, I think they may keep him. The duo only won one game, but Yates brings more to the table in the other two categories.

Other guys the Smash could be on the lookout for: Quang Duong did well in Premier as a sub, Michael Loyd, Ryler DeHeart, Brandon Lane, Andre Mick, and Eric Roddy. Bold indicates these players are already UPA signed and wouldn’t cost a team anything extra to sign.

  • The Miami Pickleball Club drops Roscoe Bellamy and picks up Quang Duong
    • Likelihood Miami drops Bellamy: <20 percent

First things first: Roscoe is a very good player and might even be a better commentator – I really like his game. He has loads of potential.

However, if Johnny Goldberg and Jamie Duguid want to get this team to the playoffs in 2024 for a shot to compete in Premier Level next year, they may look to upgrade on Bellamy.

Prior to the season when the draft took place, I thought Eric Oncins was a reach - I had only seen him play once and it wasn’t overly impressive. He has been a stud through the first two events of MLP. 

In his 14 matches played (seven mixed and seven men’s), Bellamy is 3-11 for a 21 percent win percentage. He has yet to win a mixed match and hasn’t really been close, with an average score worse than 25-19. Additionally, Bellamy has the chops to be a good Dreambreaker player and has gone 17-27 for a 39 percent win percentage, mostly in the second slot.

Quang Duong proved this past weekend he belongs in MLP at some level. I don’t think he is consistent enough in doubles to warrant a Premier Level team to pick him up, but his doubles game is much further along than I had thought. I would be shocked if a Challenger Level team doesn’t pick up Duong.

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Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

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