Responding to the horrific gap in the news cycle, caused by an absence of a Carlos Quentin trade, and the absence of a rebuilding process, the White Sox graciously released a new story for the public, and formally announced the terms of John Danks’ new contract.
Well, it’s not really a new story, it’s the details of a prior story. If this were a TV show–and it kinda is–this would be like airing a re-run but with director’s commentary, or Pop-Up Video. A much more mundane version of Pop-Up Video where they list the financial details of everything on-screen instead ‘fun facts’.
Anyways, the breakdown of the deal:
There’s no club or vesting options here, so that’s five years guaranteed, which makes this the longest contract the White Sox have ever agreed to with a pitcher. With the distribution, you can kinda think of it as two contracts. The White Sox are getting a soft approximation of what Danks would have been awarded in arbitration in 2012, then a 4 year-$57 million deal for his first four years of free agency. Kinda, but not really, because in most cases, if a pitcher severs every ligament of consequence in his arm during his last arbitration year, he doesn’t get signed to an extension. So there’s some risk.
Also, the White Sox were able to get that convenient arrangement–where extending Danks only cost them $8 million in 2012 and doesn’t kick hard till Pierzynski and Peavy are off the books–by giving Johnny a full no-trade clause for 2012, and a limited one for the rest of the deal. Danks is not getting extended just for increased trade value, it would blatantly appear. That seems fine, but no-trade clauses can really be a bear down the road. Danks is no Jeff Samardzija, but who would have thought we’d ever be discussing how limiting it is to not be able to trade Pierzynski, or Konerko?
Danks’ contract is kind of backloaded, and in honor of it, I’ve backloaded the good news in this post.
This is all pretty much fine.
Value-wise, Danks is being asked to achieve a benchmark that he’s shown capable of matching in his down years, and blowing away in his peak years.
2011 witnessed his first trip to the DL, and Danks still cleared 170 IP. Without series arm trouble or questions about his mechanics, and combined with him playing for a team that explicitly has the best training staff in baseball, durability concerns for Danks are fairly muted. The contract locks up the lefty only through his age-31 season, which is a pretty perfect middle ground between an established health record, and stopping short of when Danks can be expected to start breaking down.
With any long-term commitment to a man who flings baseball unnaturally hard hundreds of times a week for a living, there is a calculated risk, but in the case of Danks, the indicators couldn’t be pointing much more clearly toward this being a smart buy.
One supposes that it’d be better and safer if Danks had a Buehrle-like streak of consecutive 200 IP seasons going, and unfailingly kept his ERA under 2.00, but then he’d probably be a lot more expensive, and we’d be debating whether the Sox should commit to a 5 year contract with the same polishing firm for all their World Series trophies, Danks’ Cy Young awards, and other knickknacks. Surely that’d get old after a while.