How’s that for rebuilding? Just weeks after general manager Kenny Williams announced the Chicago White Sox were starting from scratch, he has apparently signed John Danks to a five year, $65 million contract extension. Even though Danks would have been a useful trade chip, Williams decided to lock up the 26-year-old lefty — proving, once again, that Kenny Williams is one of the most unpredictable GMs in the game. With the White Sox in a rebuilding mode, was signing Danks the right decision?
On the surface, the price to retain Danks doesn’t seem exorbitant. To live up to the $65 million deal, Danks would have to post about 2.5 WAR every season for the next five years. In each of the past four seasons, Danks’ lowest single season WAR total has been 2.9 — so he’s certainly capable of maintaining the proper level of success over multiple seasons. Danks is still young, and he should remain effective throughout the length on the contract. And he’s also been incredibly durable over his career, making 124 starts over the past four seasons and throwing 778.2 innings — good for 12th in the American League during that period.
Even though there’s a decent chance that Danks lives up to the contract extension, the deal is still somewhat of a head-scratcher when you consider other pitchers’ extensions. Danks compares statistically to both Wandy Rodriguez and Chad Billingsley, both of whom signed for three years and roughly $30 million. Additionally, all three players signed their deals after logging about the same amount of service time — which made their situations very similar.
Still, despite an identical statistical profile as Billingsley and Rodriguez, Danks received $30 million more than either pitcher. Rodriguez is significantly older — and Billingsley is coming off a down year — but it’s tough to argue that Danks will be $30 million dollars better than either player during the next five seasons.
The move also is puzzling when considering the White Sox current state. Following the Sergio Santos trade, Williams declared that the team would be rebuilding this season. In that scenario, Danks seemed to be one of Chicago’s more valuable trade chips. After seeing what the San Diego Padres were able to get for Mat Latos, Williams should have been salivating over the potential offers he could have gotten for Danks. Those offers might not have been as strong for Danks — he’s older and only under team control for
two seasons one season — but Danks has been worth more wins than Latos during the past two seasons (7.5 to 7.3). Since the White Sox have so many unmovable contracts, Danks was one of the few players who could have brought back some significant prospects.
Out of context, the deal looks pretty fair for the White Sox. Danks is good, young and left-handed. He should live up to the financial aspects of the contract.
When looking at the Billingsley and Rodriguez contracts, though, one has to wonder why Williams paid Danks significantly more money than the market seemed to dictate. The move is also interesting considering the White Sox are attempting to rebuild. Danks is still young enough to be considered part of that rebuilding process, but he could have brought back multiple pieces to a team devoid of useful farm-system players. The Danks extension won’t kill the White Sox, but giving him this much money right now certainly makes things confusing.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.