We can safely say that John Danks and the White Sox have agreed to a contract extension. We apparently can say that it's up to five years and $65 million.
All other aspects of the contract remain unclear, which leaves too many open-ended questions to bother trying to make a definitive statement regarding this extension's worth or sense. But the questions themselves are worth throwing out there.
What don't we know?
While the deal is being reported as five years and $65 million, we don't know how that money is structured, nor whether there is an option year (or years), which changes the shape of the deal considerably. A straight five-year deal would be very uncharacteristic for Jerry Reinsdorf, as well as for pitchers signing a deal before their final year of arbitration.
What are the White Sox doing?
Like every move the White Sox have made thus far, it doesn't really point to a clear-cut direction, which leaves Kenny Williams open to criticism, since it's almost Christmas and all. Ever since he said the White Sox are rebuilding in the wake of the Sergio Santos trade, his actions haven't followed suit. It doesn't seem like the front office can agree on a plan, which doesn't inspire confidence.
But I don't think this deal changes any direction, aside from the pitcher the Sox might want to trade. Perhaps the potential return for Danks grew weaker and weaker by the week, and since the market demanded pitchers with years of team control, Williams decided that he would get the most value for Danks by keeping him in the fold. That's not unfathomable. Every team needs pitchers, and Danks is only 26.
But with Danks locked in, it could raise the possibility of another pitcher being dealt -- Gavin Floyd is the most obvious one. Since he has one more year left on his deal, his contract seems to be more to the market's liking.
Or maybe nobody will be traded.
What's not to like?
Danks is coming off his worst season since his rookie year. He went 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA, beginning and ending his season in miserable fashion. Plus, he went to the DL for the first time in his career due to a strained rib cage. It wasn't his best work in any way, and yet here he gets a five-year, $65 million extension. It doesn't feel like Williams is buying low, and the Sox are starving for value.
But again, since we don't know how the contract breaks down yet, any value comparison runs the risk of being off. There are some loud voices (Dave Cameron and Keith Law, to name two) who are already writing it off as stupid because it's fun, but Williams doesn't deserve any benefit of the doubt, so that's going to happen.
Is he going to be worth it?
Once again, with the caveat of not knowing how the contract is structured...
If you're feeling charitable, a lot of Danks' struggles in 2011 can be explained away. He started the season with an 0-8 record he didn't deserve, and at the end, he wasn't the only one who looked like he couldn't wait for the season to be over.
In the creamy middle from June to August, he went 6-1 with a 2.03 ERA.
There's nothing in Danks' peripherals that suggests he's a different pitcher from his excellent three-year run from 2008 to 2010. His problems last season were most likely bad luck snowballing into bad pitching. If he shakes it off and returns to his 2008-10 level, he pays for himself. But he shouldn't expect the White Sox to give him much more run support than they did last year, so he has to be better equipped to handle it.
What's this say about the Sox-Danks relationship?
1. Danks' dumping of Scott Boras ended up serving a purpose after all.
2. Don Cooper must not be that awful to work with.
3. The Sox really lost nothing by leaving Jordan Danks off the 40-man roster.
It's hard to make any bolder statements right now, so I'll wait for the specifics. It's a long offseason. There's time.