When a pitcher starts a season going 0-8, and finishes with the most losses (12) and highest ERA (4.33) since his rookie year, he is more likely to expect a lump of coal in his Christmas stocking than a five-year, 65 million contract extension.
But thats exactly what John Danks received from the White Sox, who announced the deal on Thursday.
Coming off the worst year of my career, I didnt expect this for sure, Danks said on a conference call with reporters.
Does this sound like a team thats rebuilding?
No, it doesnt. And no, they arent. Not in the standard blow-it-up style that has been described since Kenny Williams uttered the word rebuilding at the winter meetings. Everyone heard that part of the sentence. The sheer sound of it may have ruptured both your eardrums.
Kenny might as well have said, Weve re-hired Terry Bevington.
But what seems to have been lost, forgotten or ignored from that Williams press conference were the words he said immediately after using the dredded r-word.
Its the start of a rebuilding now, the White Sox general manager said on Dec. 6. Is it the start of a falling domino-type rebuilding? No. Absolutely not.
Yes, Williams did say those words. But as we know, actions speak much louder. So when the White Sox proceeded to trade Sergio Santos for a prospect and not re-sign Mark Buehrle on back-to-back days, it certainly looked and felt like the team was in full rebuild mode.
But Thursday Williams prefaced it again. Theyre not tearing down the walls, just hoping to get bigger, stronger bricks.
We are still in win mode, Williams said. But at the same time that youre in win mode, you can be in a little bit of a rebuilding phase, and I tried to articulate that, although I guess that message got lost after I said we were rebuilding. I tried to articulate that it wouldnt be dominoes falling in terms of a true rebuilding because we have too many good veterans, and veterans looking to bounce back.
Danks is one of them, although he wasnt sure if hed be having a comeback year with the White Sox or some other team. The lefty was a red-hot name in many trade rumors to places like New York and Texas, but his first choice was to return to the White Sox.
Obviously, there was a lot of trade talk, and you cant help but wonder and think, said Danks, whose mother kept him up to date on all the rumors. But I think I kind of took the attitude that until something happens I was going to prepare to be with the White Sox. Fortunately, this came along and I couldnt be happier.
Or more surprised.
Although the White Sox had tried to sign Danks to an extension in the past, talks between the two sides had cooled until John recently received a phone call from his agent, Jeff Berry.
It really did come out of nowhere, Danks said. It was a very quick negotiation.
The five-year deal is the longest the White Sox have ever given to a pitcher. Due to their unpredictability with results and health, Jerry Reinsdorf prefers to limit pitching contracts to three years. Under the terms of the agreement, Danks will receive 8 million in 2012 which was to be his final season of arbitration eligibility, and 14.25 million in each season from 2013-2016.
For those wondering if the White Sox might try to deal Danks around the trade deadline if the upcoming season goes south, that very likely wont happen. According to MLB.com, Danks has a full no-trade clause in 2012, and a limited no-trade clause over the next four.
With Buehrle gone, there are some pretty large shoes to fill, but Danks says hes up to the challenge, beginning with pitching on Opening Day which Buehrle did for the White Sox a record nine times.
If you dont want to pitch on Opening Day, youre in the wrong profession, he said. I dont know what direction they want to go, but if I get the opportunity, I would love it.
What about catching the ceremonial first pitch? Buehrle made it a tradition for every home game in which he wasnt the starting pitcher. In those cases, Danks would take over.
I guess its me, Danks said.
And despite coming off a 79-83 season, and losing their best starter (Buehrle) and closer (Santos) from last season, Danks is expecting a comeback season for the White Sox.
I like our chances. I really do. Im not just saying that, he said. Obviously, there were a lot of guys, myself included, that underperformed from their career averages. Theres guys with great long track records that had down years and it was just a perfect storm. We all kind of struggled. We have a lot of the same guys back, and are capable of doing the opposite of what we did last year.