This surprise investment in Danks might lead some to wonder how he could earn a bigger contract than Mark Buehrle ever received from the White Sox. What's neat is that if you move some numbers around...
- John Danks, next five years: $65 million
- Mark Buehrle, last five years: $65.5 million
...you'll see that Danks once again falls short of Buehrle on a franchise five-year leaderboard. Not to mention that Buehrle received more no-trade protection. Both pitchers received full veto rights the first year, but Buehrle's 10-and-5 rights kicked in over the last year and a half of his contract. Danks can only reject trades to six teams, and given that his contract features no backloading, he could be in his share of trade talks before his White Sox career is over.
Danks will invite plenty more Buehrle comparisons over the length of this new deal. He's ready to take the ball on Opening Day, and while he seemed less enthused in text about catching the ceremonial first pitch on his off days, he did say, "I guess it's me."
The first five-year deal for a White Sox pitcher does come with added responsibility. Those who look at contracts in terms of WAR expectancy aren't fazed, but those people are a minority.
For instance, it's going to be interesting to see whether the money affects the perception of his persistently low run support. We've been joking for years that John Danks Doesn't Know How To Win, but I do think his under-.500 career record does affect his reputation, based on how I've heard people talk about him over the years.
Given that he's receiving a bigger-than-Buehrle contract after failing two ways Buehrle never did -- finishing a season with fewer than 10 wins and 200 innings -- I have a feeling he'll take more heat for things that are out of his control.
I've written about it before, but the one way Danks can attempt to control his perception is by pitching a little deeper into games. His starts feel like grinds, partially because he seldom sees a sizable lead, and also because it's often arduous for him to get through the sixth inning.
It's also interesting to note that Philip Humber pitched to more batters (67) in the seventh inning than Danks did (49). I wouldn't bet on that happening again, but Danks will have to see to it.
Basically, Danks gets dinged up in little ways by the whole idea of "It's how you finish." Combining the lack of support and the way he has to push himself to the finish line (with some work left for the bullpen), and a lot of Sox fans probably don't have as many easy-evening memories as they'd like.
Given that the White Sox have overseen his entire major-league career, I'd rather have Danks break the five-year contract barrier than most other pitchers. That said, the whole idea of "no more than four" -- previously "no more than three" -- has been a nice little security blanket against overzealous spending. The Sox haven't struggled to put together a good rotation with their self-imposed restrictions.
Hopefully, the Sox will continue to resist overcommitting to pitchers. I don't think the Danks deal is going to lead to a spate of five-year contracts, but the bigger concern is that it might soften the Sox's previously held position on four years, which isn't a great idea in most cases.
Remembering back to when Buehrle got the first four-year deal, the length of the contract was supposed to be reserved for special times and special people. Then Kenny Williams got excited and gave four years to Scott Linebrink for reasons that will never be sufficiently explained.
As I've said previously, Danks has his own distinct ties to the Sox organization, some of which go deeper than Buehrle's. I'm just hoping this precedent doesn't have an accompanying signing that will diminish the whole reason the precedent was established in the first place..
Speaking of which, 2012 is the first year in a long time the Sox won't be paying money to Linebrink. That warms the heart a little.