John Danks is not hitting the free agent market

John Danks is not hitting the free agent market
5 years, $65 million? Don't you think that's some information I might like to know?......I like money // Jamie Squire, Getty Images

Well now!  

The title of this piece is about all that can be regarded of certain at this juncture, but apparently the White Sox reached an agreement with John Danks on a contract extension that will probably resemble 5 years for $65 million.  I went ahead and linked to the original tweets of the apparent freelance graphic designer who broke the story before the likes of Jon Heyman, because it’d be a shame if the theme of unexpected figures playing surprisingly large roles in this White Sox off-season got swept by the wayside in all the confusion.

And there’s confusion, in all areas.  It’s the purest by-product of this announcement.  Enough to put in list form.

1. What are the actual terms?  5/65 has been thrown out there and held up to scrutiny so far, but the pay distribution hasn’t been announced.  Backloading is almost always assumed on deals this long, but it’s not known how many years are guaranteed and how many are options, which figure to come into play given some of the things the good Chairman Reinsdorf has said about long-term contracts for pitchers.

It might not be a reach to say things aren’t quite hashed out because this isn’t intended method of leaking the news.  Yup, might not be much of a reach at all.

2. Is this…a good deal?  If we took everything at face value, it seems like a fair match for Danks’ production.  Chris Cwik of FanGraphs figured Danks would need to average 2.5 WAR per season to make the deal stand up, a benchmark he’s had no problem clearing since his rookie year.  5 years would constitute Danks’ age 27-31 seasons, putting him in a nice little middle ground between not being paid into a stretch where a breakdown seems likely, and having a long enough track record of avoiding serious injury.  2011 saw Danks’ first DL visit of his career for an oblique strain, and he still covered 170 IP.

It’s a fair deal, it could even be a good deal, but it sure isn’t a bargain.  It’s an approaching market-level for a pitcher who has been consistently above-average that surely most in the Sox organization still see as having higher potential.  So of course,

3. What the hell does it mean?  Danks is a young, valuable starter who can (and now is a lot more likely to) be a key contributor the next time the White Sox are competitive, but he also just got decidedly not-cheap for a team was allegedly too overloaded with failed investments and in need of a moment of retreat.  Not only that, but Danks represented one of the few chips by which the Sox seemed capable of taking one asset, and breaking it down into two or three, or simply taking one regular-priced asset and turning it into a cheaper one.

The mantra of “we won’t trade players just to trade them” and other similar iterations has been repeated many times by the White Sox brain trust, so it could be as simple as Kenny did his due diligence surveying the trade market for Danks, tolerated all the “Oh, I donno if he’s worth Dellin Betances straight-up” remarks from Brian Cashman that he could, and decided he would get the most value by just keeping John Danks through his prime.

Such a judgment, just like the terms of the deal itself, are just fine in a vacuum, but in the context of the whole off-season, it’s another bend in the path that makes the final destination unclear, and casts doubt about a particular one being in mind.

1. Extending Sergio Santos – A good move no matter the context

2. Picking up Jason Frasor’s option – Hard to explain, or an attempt to stack trade chips, which would only make it ill-advised

3. Trading Sergio Santos for a Double-A prospect – Evidence of an extensive rebuild

4. Letting Mark Buehrle walk – Continuing the cost-cutting

5. Extending John Danks – ???? (I don’t particularly buy the idea that this is a move to boost Danks’ trade value, as he’s still squarely behind pitchers with remaining arb years in the starter trade target queue)

As JJ points out, the White Sox haven’t made a move that could quantify as rebuilding; blatantly punting positions in 2012 for the sake of the future.  Buehrle’s departure only made room for the already planned transition of Chris Sale, and the Santos trade could just be a recognition of relievers as fungible, while placing trust in Addison Reed.  Even a future Quentin trade only serves to de-clutter an outfield for a Rios-De Aza-Viciedo trio that figured to battle for PT otherwise (with poor soft-spoken Alex Rios possibly getting drowned out by all those pesky superior players).

It could easily be another KW ‘rebuilding without retreating’ special, or maybe he thinks that making the franchise’s direction obvious to the world by making moves that correspond to it is a trade disadvantage.

But it could easily be a lot of things.  It’s certainly getting later in the off-season, but it’s still far from last call.  The White Sox still have a few moves left, especially seeing as they’ve yet to announce, or explain this one.


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  • Do you have an RSS feed?

  • In reply to fanexchange:

    How much does your RSS eat?

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    An amount that's unsustainable for the surrounding ecosystem.

  • In reply to fanexchange:

    I should, but it's been less clear since the re-design a few months back. I just fired off an email to my site admin about it, and will let you know as soon as I get more info.

  • In reply to fanexchange:

    The bossman told me, to tell you, to paste that in your address bar.

  • Danks5ys$65MIL: Hurraaawwwshucksalllrighteeeehuh?!

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    This is pretty much appropriate. I wasn't feeling too optimistic about the trade market, what with all the cost-controlled youngsters being offered around, so I'm not too broken up about this part of the rebuild being scrapped. That might just be me throwing up my hands on the direction of the franchise, though.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    What parts of the rebuild are still in play do you think? Or are most likely still to be moved? For example, what odds would you give that Quentin and Floyd are on the Sox opening day roster?

    It seems more and more likely to me that Kenny is going to give this team three months to compete for the division title, which must seem like a win, win response to a tepid trade market. If the Sox are winning in 2012, great; if not then the firesale comes in July, when Kenny feels his players will have more trade value (exactly as you suggested about Quentin at the beginning of this offseason).

    I can understand and even appreciate this course of action, however as a fan I'm not sure I want to witness it.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I would probably put Quentin at 35% on returning and Floyd at 70%. If they always planned to move one of the starters, it would make sense for Floyd to be available now, but there's been no talk of him at all. Kenny likes to have his rotation completely solidified 1-5 though, so I'm shaky on how much he wants to punt one of the slots to Axelrod or Stewart.

    The more I watch this play out, the more trying to go for the division every year seems like a lack of aggression, a hesitance to commit to a rebuild and the associated costs. The team has to force their hands by bottoming out into disaster, and it looks like they still might avoid doing that.

    As a fan, it's murder to witness struggling, but as a writer?? Ooh wee! It's fun to go dark when the subject matter is as inherently silly as professional sports. Going dark about crumbling public institutions...a little bit less so.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Well put, I hadn't thought of the Sox way of doing things as "lack of aggression"; expect rebuke from Kenny. But I hope the case this offseason has not been "hesitance to commit to a rebuild and the associated costs" but instead a low demand for White Sox veterans. I want to rebuild, but no young player in the organization is currently blocked (assuming Ventura is willing to sit Rios), and unless the Sox need to dump salary there's no rush to ship guys off for Jeff Marquezes.

    I don't think of pro-sports as inherently silly. If you mean that they provide escape from personal and larger social problems that's true to an extent. But they can have both redeeming (your comment months ago about the Sox bringing your family closer together) and intellectual (sabermetrics) value. Also, from an analyitical standpoint, pro sports (how they operate, how they are sold, how they are received, and the underlying politics of race, class, gender, etc. that define them) tell us much about the society in which we live and are a prism through which we see the nation, or an ideal form of it. Dave Zirin gets at some of this, but he's a little too preachy and lacking in nuance for my taste (though I don't mind that he's polemical). You seem to have a sense of the larger social context of sports, though it is not in the forefront of your writing.

    Incidentally, as far as your profession, I couldn't hold it in higher regard. Sports lend themselves to great writing, and therefore attract many great writers. You among them of course. What most of them do not do is patiently read through long-winded comments from readers and then reply. Thanks for that.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    That's the rub of a White Sox rebuild, isn't it. They can't go young because they have nothing of consequence, which is a crisis (and extra 3-5 years of work) in and of itself. That makes the prospect of fully committing to a rebuild that much more horrifying.

    I guess what I meant is, that there are few things more ripe for derision and humor as a bad sports team. When other elements of society fall into disrepair, wild giggling is not quite as socially acceptable of response. Obviously I shade more toward the comedic approach, and I appreciate good material to riff on if I'm not going to have good baseball to watch. I would say that's a pretty apt diagnosis of WSO. I kind of wistfully glance at some larger issues, mutter "another time, another time", and get back to my usual M.O.

    I liked Zirin more before he swooped in and covered the Notre Dame controversy last year. I was still blogging about them at the time, and the Seeberg case and Sullivan death were all I was digesting at the time. When gave his one polemic on the topic, fudged several details, and then moved and brushed off all criticism as just being what he gets for "speaking the truth!" it left me a little irked. Overall he's got his heart in the right place, though.

    That's high praise, and I appreciate it.

  • Whoa!: "The White Sox may be “in strong” on Yoenis Cespedes, reports Danny Knobler of One White Sox person forcefully told Knobler "we are not rebuilding," despite Kenny Williams' statements to the contrary." (

    And that's quite a haul for Gio Gonzalez.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Grabbing Cespedes is costly, risky, and creates an even bigger logjam in the outfield......and I would be pumped.

    That's a mighty haul for Gonzalez. Teams are really raking it in for cost-controlled starters. Kenny Williams would probably point out that the A's are on track for more losses than paid home attendance in 2012, though.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    I don't know if this is being talked about in baseball writing circles, but is it possible that the Gonzalez trades and others like it this offseason (Latos, Cahill) are direct results of the the new CBA? With draft pick compensation severely limited, and teams no longer allowed to throw gobs of money at draft picks threatening to go to college, is this the new small market paradigm? Trade your cost controlled players for lots of great prospects?

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    It's possible, and that would truly be dire, as it would drastically reduce the window for competition for small-market teams if trading guys after their first two seasons in the league is the new frontier.

    For now, I'm willing to chalk it up to Oakland being uniquely hamstrung until they're stadium situation is cleared up, and San Diego thinking Latos is a petulant jackass.

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