Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 12/22/11

You have to hand it to Kenny Williams, he really doing... something.

With his latest move, he has given the White Sox rotation a healthy dose of stability by locking up lefty John Danks for five years at what is believed to be $65 million.  That is a perfectly reasonable amount to pay a 26-year old lefty who has proven to be durable and has generally been consistently good, though not great.  In fact, it is the exact kind of move one would expect a savvy GM of a contending team to make.  The only problem is that the White Sox don't really qualify as contenders right now.  Actually, it isn't clear what kind of team thay qualify as at all.

Rewind back to late-July of this past season and we see GM Kenny Williams seemingly raising the white flag on the 2011 season by trading away starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, along with bench albatross Mark Teahen, for reliever Jason Frasor and prospect Zach Stewart.  Considering that the Pale Hose were just 3.5 games out at the time, it seemed like a curious decision.  Up until that point, the White Sox had fancied themselves as contenders, thus their big expenditure on Adam Dunn.  That transaction obviously blew up in their face, so it did make some sense that Williams perhaps realized that this team just wasn't cut out for a legit post-season run and decided to blow things up.  Fair enough, nobody could really blame him for that.

What they can blame him for is going about the self-imposed implosion in a half-assed manner.  If Williams had really wanted to rebuild, he could have continued to sell the team off for parts by trading away Mark Buehrle who was set to hit free agency.  But they didn't presumably because they hoped to re-sign their long-time rotation workhorse.

Only that didn't happen.  As we all know, Buehrle was given a rich deal to sign with the Miami Marlins, but he only after the White Sox failed to make any real serious overture to keep him on the South Side.  Letting an asset like that walk away for the low, low price of a Type B compensation pick in the 2012 Amateur draft.  Surely Kenny could've gotten some real, tangible assets in return for a consistent and playoff-tested starting pitcher, the kind of assets that could help with a rebuilding process. 

So, maybe the White Sox aren't really rebuilding?

Or maybe not.  The first actual move the ChiSox made in the off-season was trading away closer Sergio Santos for a pitching prospect.  Ah yes, back to the rebuilding.  Wonderful.  I mean, who needs a quality bullpen when you aren't really trying to win, right?  That would definitely explain why they then started shopping southpaw setup man Matt Thornton too, though they have yet to find a buyer.  What it doesn't explain though is why they re-signed Jason Frasor who the confusingly acquired in the aforementioned Jackson trade.  Weird.

Which brings us back to the newly extended John Danks.  The same John Danks that Kenny Williams was shopping hard at the Winter Meetings, hoping to bring back a hefty package of prospects to pump some life into this alleged rebuilding process.  Or maybe not.

Out of nowhere, Williams reversed course, took Danks off the market and gave him a fat long-term contract.  Why?  Who knows.  Is he not rebuilding anymore?  If that were the case, you'd expect for the Sox to have been active in free agency instead of totally inert like they have been.  No, Williams has been actively looking to move other veterans like Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Gordon Beckham

The only explanation is that Williams smartly realizes that when rebuilding, one must pick a core to rebuild around. Teams like the Mariners have stubbornly held onto the likes of Felix Hernandez even though they could get a treasure trove of prospects in return.  Alas, Danks is no Felix Hernandez.  Felix is an bona fide ace.  Danks is the White Sox de facto staff ace right now, but he is the #2 or even #3 starter on a lot of other teams.

But why are we making a big deal out of all this?  After all, the White Sox got a good price on a good young pitcher.  The problem is that they paid any kind of price at all.  Rebuilding isn't just about getting good young players, it is about rebuilding a team's payroll structure.  Considering that Williams is responsible for the White Sox being stuck with paying Adam Dunn $44 million and Alex Rios $40.5 million over the next three seasons, you'd think he'd want to limit the amount of long-term money he doles out as he tries to clean up that mess.  Apparently not.

This isn't meant at all to ridicule Williams, mind you, but more to just express puzzlement at his plan or apparent lack of.  But Kenny Williams has always been one of the more unconventional general managers in baseball.  He has also been pretty successful.  Maybe five years from now when Danks' contract is up we will also see the method to Williams' madness, but for now though, we can only wonder.


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