Hot Stove Targeting: John Danks
John Danks is a coveted young, 26-yr old lefty for the Chicago White Sox. He is in his final year of arbitration, meaning he is eligible to be a Free Agent at the end of the season. With Chicago’s ace Mark Buehrle on the Free Agent market right now, the cost-cutting Sox may need to decide which of these lefties to sign long-term and which to let go.
Danks has been a succesful lefty starter in the American league for the last 4 years and at 26, is still improving. The sturdy 6’2″ 220 pounder missed 5 starts this season and pitched into a lot of bad luck. He had the 11th worst run support in MLB (3.49 runs per game) and a very high .313 BABIP, including an improbable .266 BA on ground balls. That’s a lot of grounders that found holes. This explains why he had a 4.33 ERA with a 3.79 xFIP. He actually improved his Strikeout and Walk Rates over his previous 2 seasons so his 8-12 record and 4.33 ERA were truly mis-leading.
When you look at his success from 2008-10 when he averaged a 13-10 record, 3.59 ERA, 203 ip, K/9 over 7 and BB/9 under 3, you see the type of pitcher he is.
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
His arsenal consists of a Fastball that averages 91.6 MPH and a Cutter & Change Up that are both Plus offerings. He also uses a Curve every now and then as a show-me pitch but it’s not an asset. His Change & Cutter are effective pitches against both lefties and righties which gives Danks almost identical splits.
vs LH Batters he allows .265/.329/.403/.732 OPS
vs RH Batters he allows .252/.313/.411/.725 OPS
After 3 consecutive excellent seasons, Danks was regarded as one of the best young pitchers in baseball and experts were predicting him to explode in 2011. However, he received no run support and started the season 0-5 despite a 3.83 ERA. The offense scored a total of 8 runs in those 5 losses and it started to effect Danks’ pitching. He started to pitch poorly and by the end of May sat at 0-8 with a 5.25. However, Danks didn’t pack it in and went on an 11 start run in which he went 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA.
After 3 straight seasons of at least 32 starts & 195 IP, Danks durability took a hit as he missed 5 starts this summer due to an oblique strain. To his credit, he was strong when he returned from the injury, going 3-1 2.47 ERA in his first 7 starts.
Danks has shown some inconsistent velocity in his career which is a bit of a concern. There are games where his FB his averaging in the 92-93 range then inexplicably, there are games where his average FB doesn’t exceed 90 MPH. That is somewhat puzzling but sounds more like a case of a young pitcher losing his mechanics and/or arm slot at times.
A Fit for the Yanks?
IMO, Danks would be a perfect fit for the Yankees. He is a legit 26 yr old left-hander who is still improving and has many good years to come as he has yet to enter his prime. It’s a fact that southpaws benefit from pitching in Yankee Stadium so sliding him into the rotation with CC & Nova would give them a solid 1-2-3 for years to come. Unfortunately, he’s in his last year of arbitration so he’ll be a Free Agent at the end of the season. He’ll require a substantial commitment in dollars and years. However, this is the type of pitcher the Yanks should be signing in Free Agency – established, yet young enough to be in his prime for the life of the contract.
From the White Sox’ perspective
The Sox don’t want to lose Danks but they have some tough decisions to make. Fellow lefty Mark Buehrle is a Free Agent. The durable Buehrle has been a rock in their rotation and has been a very popular figure in the Chicago clubhouse and to the fans. The team has a lot of money already committed this year and rumor is Kenny Williams has been ordered to reduce the payroll. If he brings Buehrle back, Wiliams will have to cut money somewhere and with Danks a year from his own Free Agency, it is unlikely they would be able to sign both lefties long-term. So rather than keep Danks for one season, he could deal him to bring the team some badly needed young talent. Young lefty Chris Sale is ready to step into the rotation and could take Danks’ spot.
Jim Callis of Baseball America says “there’s no question” the CWS have the worst farm system of any team. Williams has been quoted as saying he would be looking for young MLB-ready impact players rather than A/AA ball level prospects if he trades anyone. He has to say that because otherwise he’d be throwing this season away, but I think the Yanks could offer him an attractive package of low & upper level prospects.
Cost for the Yankees
While everyone covets Montero & Banuelos, a realistic package for Danks would be something like Betances, Romine & Noesi. Noesi would step into the rotation, Romine would backup Pierzynski and be the Catcher of the future and Betances would be a young stud maybe a year away.
Or perhaps a package of Gardner, Betances & a prospect OR Nunez, Betances & a prospect. While Chicago fans may think I’m crazy and demand a combo of Montero, Gardner, Nunez & Betances, it is important to remember that the Yanks would only be getting one year of Danks and he is coming off a 8-12, 4.33 season.
Another possibility is perhaps the Yanks agree to take on either Adam Dunn or Alex Rios. Both have 3 yrs left on their deals – Dunn for $44M & Rios for $38.5M. Maybe CWS will eat half of one of those deals, ship them to NY with Danks for Romine, Noesi & Heathcott. Chicago would save $20M+ over the next 3 seasons plus the $9M owed Danks. They could use that cash to re-sign Buehrle and they’d also be receiving a MLB ready starting pitcher, a young Catcher who could apprentice a yr under A.J. then step in and a highly regarded OF prospect. But unless Cash traded Swisher, Rios or Dunn wouldn’t get regular ABs.
What do you think?
Is Danks someone Cashman should target and if so, what would you be willing to give up? From a Chicago standpoint, if you are Kenny Williams would you trade Danks? What would be a fair deal?