White Sox

Sox Drawer: Danks back; Kenny on 'rebuilding'

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Sox Drawer: Danks back; Kenny on 'rebuilding'

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Discussing 2020 White Sox expectations

SportsTalk Live is on location at McCormick Place to preview SoxFest 2020. Chuck Garfien and David Haugh join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00 - White Sox manager Rick Renteria joins the guys to talk about the team's big offseason and the expectations for the 2020 season. He also talks about how the team with handle Michael Kopech (4:00) and what Dallas Keuchel brings to the rotation. (6:00) Plus, he explains how guys who turned the corner in 2019 like Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada can stay hot in 2020. (15:00)

17:00 - Steve Stone joins the guys to explain how the White Sox rebuild is going according to plan despite not landing one of the top free agents this winter. Plus, he updates his Twitter follower battle with Jason Benetti (23:00) and talks about how he would handle Michael Kopech's return. (25:30)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox reward for winning the offseason: They get to talk playoffs ... or bust

White Sox reward for winning the offseason: They get to talk playoffs ... or bust

The White Sox know there is no trophy for winning the offseason.

Make no mistake, they did win the offseason, Rick Hahn’s front office adding enough veteran cache to vault the 89-loss South Siders from just another rebuilding team with a bright future to a team whose future is pulling into the station.

But there was no self-congratulating at Hahn’s pre-SoxFest press conference Thursday.

“Quite candidly, we haven't accomplished anything yet, we haven't won yet,” he said. “This whole process was about winning championships, was about finishing with a parade at the end of October down Michigan Avenue. Until that happens, I don't think any of us are really in a position to feel satisfied or feel like we've accomplished anything.

“We've had a nice winter. We've had, frankly, in our opinion, a real nice three years since we started (the rebuild) with the Chris Sale trade. We think very bright days are ahead of us, and we look forward to enjoying them. But in terms of feeling like we've accomplished something or feeling satisfied, ask me after the parade.”

Give me a second while I email that last bit over to our marketing department. They might be able to conjure up a few things with “ask me after the parade.”

But in all seriousness, Hahn is right. There is no trophy for winning the offseason. The act of signing free agents does not balance out all the losing over the last three seasons. Only winning can do that.

There has been, however, a reward for winning the offseason. Rick Renteria — and presumably all his players this weekend during SoxFest — get to talk about playoff expectations. Real ones.

“I would be disappointed if we don’t make the postseason,” Renteria said during his own session Thursday. “We want to break through. We want this to be an impactful season.”

As recently as a year ago, no matter how bright the future appeared to be, that comment would have raised eyebrows. It would not have been taken seriously. Now? It is the expectation.

Renteria has not been shy about the rebuilding White Sox turning the corner in 2020. He spent the last few weeks of the 2019 campaign making similar postseason proclamations. But now Hahn has backed his manager up with all this winter’s acquisitions.

The White Sox place in the standings by the end of September still figures to have a lot more to do with Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson and Luis Robert than any of the individual newcomers, even players as talented and accomplished as Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel. The core is that important. But the outsiders brought in this offseason have embodied the turning tide — and given Renteria the chance to talk seriously about these kinds of big expectations for the first time in his tenure as the South Side skipper.

“I think, man for man,” he said, “now we at least have a little bit more ammunition to be able to go out and compete hopefully on a consistent basis and put those victories on the board.

“I’m not afraid of talking about high expectations and winning. … If we do our job and we go about preparing and hopefully the actions and performances come to fruition, we should be on top of the victory column in terms of wins and losses. And there’s nothing beyond my thought that doesn’t say that I expect us to compete and be in conversation for postseason play.”

Hahn isn’t quite as willing to declare the 2020 season “playoffs or bust” because he’s still got his eye on the long term, the same place it’s been throughout this rebuilding process. That next parade down Michigan Avenue is supposed to be merely the first.

And so while the White Sox can reap the rewards of Hahn’s offseason work in the form of preseason talk, he’ll bask in nothing more than setting up his team for that long-term postseason success.

“I think the expectations are understandably high, at least when you talk to Ricky or the coaches or any of the players or anyone in uniform. Their expectation is that this team is in a position to win in the 2020 season, which is exactly where all of us in the front office would want them to be,” he said. “That said, whether you're talking Jerry (Reinsdorf) or Kenny (Williams) or myself, the entire purpose of this rebuild was to put ourselves in a multi-year position to win multiple championships.

“So the progress that we make in any given offseason has to be viewed not just about what's going to happen in that upcoming season, but what position that puts us in toward accomplishing that long-term goal. We want to make sure that we are well positioned, once that window opens, to win as many championships as possible.

“When that window opens, we're going to find out together. I certainly think the players in uniform think it's going to happen come Opening Day of this year. Whether we're blessed with good health and continued progress from our young players, we're going to find out together.

“But we look at it, in the front office, from a multi-year perspective. The guys in uniform are going to do everything in their power to make it about now, which you've got to appreciate.”

That’s going to be the theme of this weekend, as White Sox fans descend on SoxFest with more excitement than they have in years. This is a White Sox team expected to reach October, and that hasn’t exactly been common, as evidenced by the franchise’s more than decade-long postseason drought.

Hahn can talk about putting the team in good position for 2021 and 2022 and 2023 and beyond all he wants. The fans are finally — and with good reason — thinking playoffs or bust for the upcoming season.

And the manager agrees.

“I see our club, and I want to go into this season thinking I don't want to miss an opportunity,” Renteria said. “That's my goal right now, not to miss this opportunity. Expectations bread opportunities. I'm not afraid of expectations because it breads opportunity. I want to attain and complete those tasks that I think our club is going to have a chance to be able to do.

“I'm not afraid to say it.”

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