12/29/11 6:19 PM EST
Confident Danks earns five-year extension
Deal worth $65 million, includes varied no-trade clauses
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
"I've bet on myself the last few years, and I have no problem doing that," Danks said during a conference call Thursday, hours after his five-year, $65 million extension agreement with the White Sox officially was announced. "I'm a confident guy."
His confidence now has been backed up by a high level of financial security, with Danks earning $8 million in 2012 and $14.25 million in each of the 2013-16 seasons. The $8 million in 2012 marks what would have been Danks' final year of arbitration.
MLB.com also has learned that Danks holds full no-trade veto power in the first year of his deal and has limited no-trade considerations over the next four. That limited no-trade translates into six teams to which Danks can't be traded without his approval.
Many pundits have speculated that Danks' signing doesn't necessarily mean the 26-year-old will serve as the White Sox ace for the next five years. Having him under control for even four years at $57 million might increase the chance of getting high-end, Major League-ready young talent back in return for Danks, as opposed to the offers being made over the past month or so before he hit free agency in 2012.
General manager Ken Williams' comments concerning Danks on Thursday made it sound as if the White Sox have no plans to move the man at the top of their rotation.
"I'll put it to you this way," said Williams, who spoke to the media before Danks did during the conference call. "I don't care what team it's against or what opposing pitcher. I'm not scared to have him out there. "He'll give you everything he has on that particular day and might shut you down. I'm not afraid for him to go up against anyone.
"We've tried to get John signed to a multi-year deal for a number of years," Williams said. "He is as durable as they come, wants the ball every time out and he's a great teammate, a really good guy. He epitomizes the aggressiveness we want guys to have when they take the mound. He's already one of the leaders and will grow into more of a leadership role."
Danks is coming off arguably his worst season as an established starter, finishing with an 8-12 record and 4.33 ERA over 27 starts. But those final numbers include a 0-8 start and 5.25 ERA through May 29.
This up-and-down year included a right oblique strain on June 25, which sent him to the disabled list, and a Stephen Drew line drive off the back of Danks' head during a June 18 start in Arizona. Danks stayed in the game and allowed just one earned run over seven innings.
In five full seasons as a starter, Danks has topped 170 innings and 27 starts in all but his rookie year. He has two years of at least 200 innings pitched and at least 30 starts made, and now seems lined up to take over Mark Buehrle's role as the leader of this White Sox staff, after learning a great deal about the game from his mentor.
"We'll miss him, and you wish you could have him here," Danks said of Buehrle, who agreed to a four-year, $58 million free-agent deal with the Marlins. "But I learned a lot from him, and it was fun while it lasted.
"I see myself as a big piece of [the pitching staff], but on any given day that guy has to pitch well. They are depending on me for 200-plus innings and to give us a chance to win. It will take five of us and maybe more to get to where we want to be. I might be counted on a little more than the other guys, but you have to think of the big picture with the rotation."
The White Sox actually tried to lock up Danks back in Spring Training 2009, when Gavin Floyd agreed to a four-year, $15.5 million deal with an option for 2013. The same basic offers were made to Danks and outfielder Carlos Quentin at the time, but both players turned them down.
There was an offer made to Danks last Spring Training along the lines of the three-year, $35 million deal Chad Billingsley agreed to with the Dodgers at the same time. As Danks said, though, he bet on himself and ended up with two more years and another $30 million.
Upon being asked if he had to convince chairman Jerry Reinsdorf about offering Danks the most years and dollars ever received by a White Sox pitcher, Williams simply answered, "Of course," and added nothing more. To be honest, Danks would have bet more on a December trade than a December extension back at season's end, and even as recently as the 2011 Winter Meetings at Dallas' Hilton Anatole Hotel.
Then, the White Sox approached Jeff Berry, Danks' representative, shortly after those early-December Winter Meetings, and now he's the top man on what could be a solid pitching staff. The only questions left to be answered are whether Danks will start Opening Day 2012 and assume Buehrle's regular duty of catching the ceremonial first pitches at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Yeah, it really did come out of nowhere," Danks said of the extension. "It was one of those things where Jeff called me, and we were both surprised and happy. It went fairly quick. We didn't go back and forth, I want to say, for but a week. It's exciting and I'm thrilled to death for sure.
"Coming off the worst year of my career, I didn't expect this. But at the time, I was not worried about any contract status. I was more frustrated and trying to right the ship more than anything. It wasn't something that was on my mind."