I'm sure when Scott Merkin wrote his piece declaring that the White Sox 2012 rotation would not be absent both Mark Buehrle and John Danks, he believed that he was giving loyal fans a bit of peace. True enough, every starter returning makes it less likely Zach Stewart makes 25 starts next season, and that's good.
Merkin evens goes so far as to say that both Buehrle and Danks could come back...but that would probably mean Gavin Floyd departs. Well, that just seals it. Take the pitching love of your life, take the two promising young hurlers who spearheaded the last likable and successful team this franchise has produced, and blast one of them into space. What a horrible, and torturous decision to have to ponder.
If only I had something else to do.
Scenario #1 - Buehrle leaves in free agency, Floyd and Danks retained
Emotional Reaction: Weep, without end.
Short-term Benefit: Supplemental draft pick! It's like a 2nd round draft pick, but better. Perhaps not re-signing Buehrle for $10-15 million leaves the budget light enough to retain a Carlos Quentin, or have more cash in tow for whatever other deals they want to pull off. I'm not going to say it could help contribute to eating Rios or Dunn's contract, because that's insane and would never happen. But....no, it's just insane.
Short-term Drawback: Fanbase might just be large enough to pull off a legitimate riot. Buehrle out-performed both of the youngsters handily in 2011, and could certainly do it again in 2012. Jettisoning the best starter of the previous season always has its drawbacks.
Long-term Benefit: White Sox retain whatever outside chance they have at locking up their two mid-20's rotation mainstays, and don't invest heavily in aging talent during a time when they're supposed to be re-tooling.
Long-term Drawback: Entirely possible that Danks and Floyd are inconsistent for remainder of their careers, neither are re-signed, and Buehrle has 3 or even more productive seasons left. Allowing Buehrle to walk results in the least value returned. The lower-level prospects the Sox acquire, the less likely Kenny Williams is to see a restructuring through to the end.
Scenario #2 - Floyd traded, Buehrle re-signed, Danks retained
Emotional Reaction: Weep for 3 hours, recover. Occasionally have to be excused from room when Floyd snaps off his best curveball with his new team.
Short-term Benefit: Getting rid of the guy who hasn't eclipsed 200 IP, or posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2008 might be the best bet for 2012. He's older than Danks, and less reliable than Buehrle. No more face-melting "Oh crap, Gavin has to rely on his fastball" nights.
Short-term Drawback: A one-year rental of Floyd probably doesn't bring about the most inspiring of returns, Danks and Buehrle are certainly the most expensive combination for 2012, and adding Chris Sale to the rotation would mean three lefties in the five-man. Though, Texas seems to be doing fine with that.
Long-term Benefit: Floyd will be 29 years-old next year and has pitched worse than his peripherals for the last three seasons, the chances that he rises from the ranks of mid-rotation starters is dwindling fast. The return for him won't be splendid, but it might outstrip a supplemental draft pick in 2014.
Long-term Drawback: Floyd's middling results mean he probably won't earn a trade return on par with his true talent level, and his remaining club option makes him a cheaper rotation contributor for the next two seasons than either Buehrle or Floyd. If the White Sox really want to back down from their current budget level, Floyd's value is hard to overlook.
Scenario #3 - Danks traded, Buehrle re-signed, Floyd retained
Emotional reaction: Weep for 7 hours, wipe face of tears, paint interior of house black, name first-born child "Trouble". Additionally, 5 years from now The Blackout Game is replayed on MLB Network, and in response you break every light-fixture in your house.
Short-term Benefit: Easily the biggest trade return, removes team of allegedly its "worst dancer". This version of the rotation includes Buehrle, so 200 IP of above-average work is deposited into the bank as well.
Short-term Drawback: Danks has the most potential production out of the three. Not just for his career due to his age, but for 2012 due to his talent level. Cashing out on Danks would be lucrative, but also pretty clearly signal a re-build to the fanbase.
Long-term Benefit: Danks was always going to be most difficult to re-sign, and dealing him offers a chance to get a return for him that exceeds draft compensation. Also, maybe he's not the greatest thing in the world--his best season was still '08, by far--and eventually signing him for market value is the wrong path to be on.
Long-term Drawback: Mostly just re-hashing the 'potential' bit here, but Danks turns just 27 in May. By the time the White Sox are angling to be competitive again, Johnny will still be in his prime, and possibly racking up 5 WAR seasons. Oh, that would be terrible. I'm ordering black paint off Amazon right now.
What's best? Goodness. I can't imagine. It's an almost impossible decision, and inevitably the determining factors will be the league-wide interest in Floyd and Danks, or Buehrle's price, or what the organizational feeling on each one's potential is. I'd choose Buehrle and Danks, but man, that is almost entirely due to personal preference.
Hopefully, there's more to it than that. But whatever, I'm sure they'll be fine. Two of them are coming back!
We're gonna be fine, you guys.