Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 12/21/11
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How’s that for rebuilding? Just weeks after General Manager Kenny Williams announced the Chicago White Sox were starting from scratch, he has apparently signed John Danks to a five year $65 million contract extension. Even though Danks would have been a useful trade chip, Williams decided to lock up the 26-year-old lefty — proving, once again, that Kenny Williams is one of the most unpredictable GMs in the game. With the White Sox in a rebuilding mode, was signing Danks the right decision?

On the surface, the price to retain Danks doesn’t seem exorbitant. In order to live up to the $65 million, Danks would have to post about 2.5 WAR in each of the next five seasons. In each of the last four seasons, Danks’ lowest single season WAR total has been 2.9, so he’s certainly capable of maintaining the proper level of success over multiple seasons. Danks is still just 26, and should remain effective throughout the length on the contract. He’s also been incredibly durable over his career, making 124 starts over the last four seasons and throwing 778.2 innings — good for 12th in the American League during that period.

Even though there’s a decent chance that Danks lives up to the contract extension, the deal is still somewhat of a head-scratcher when you consider other pitcher extensions. Danks compares statistically to both Wandy Rodriguez and Chad Billingsley, both of whom signed for three years and roughly $30 million. Additionally, all three players signed their deals with about the same amount of service time under their belts — making their situations eerily similar. Despite an identical statistical profile as Billingsley and Rodriguez, Danks received $30 million more than either pitcher. Rodriguez is significantly older — and Billingsley is coming off a down year — but it’s tough to argue Danks will be $30 million dollars better than either player over the next five seasons.

The move is also puzzling considering the White Sox current state. Following the Sergio Santos trade, Williams declared that the team would be rebuilding this season. In that scenario, Danks appeared to be one of the more valuable trade chips on the team. After seeing what the San Diego Padres were able to acquire for Mat Latos, Williams should have been salivating over the potential offers he could have received for Danks. Those offers may not have been as strong for Danks — as he’s older and only under team control for two seasons — but Danks has been worth more wins than Latos over the past two seasons (7.5 to 7.3). Since the White Sox have so many unmovable contracts, Danks was one of the few players that could have brought back some significant prospects.

Out of context, the deal looks pretty fair for the White Sox. Danks is good, young and left-handed. He should live up to the financial aspects of the contract. When looking at the Billingsley and Rodriguez contracts, however, one has to wonder why Williams paid Danks significantly more money than the market seemed to dictate. The move is also confusing considering the White Sox attempt at rebuilding. Danks is still young enough to be considered part of the rebuilding process, but he could have brought back multiple parts to a team devoid of useful players in their farm system. The Danks extension won’t kill the White Sox, but giving him this much money right now certainly makes things confusing.

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