MAY 13: The White Sox announced today (Twitter link) that they have placed Danks on unconditional release waivers.
MAY 3: The White Sox are set to designate starter John Danks for assignment, Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago reports on Twitter. The 31-year-old left-hander is in the final season of a five-year, $65MM contract and is set to earn $15.75MM this season — a sum that the White Sox will simply eat in order to free up Danks’ spot on the roster. Chicago will have 10 days to trade or release Danks, though even if the team were to eat a considerable portion of the salary, it’s tough to imagine Danks drawing much interest at this point.
In 22 1/3 innings (four starts) this season, Danks has allowed 18 earned runs on 28 hits and 11 walks with 16 strikeouts and a career-worst 30.1 percent ground-ball rate. Danks’ fastball, which used to sit in the 91-92 mph range, is averaging just 87.1 mph this season. That’s simply the latest decline in velocity for Danks, whose career has never fully recovered from 2012 shoulder surgery.
Danks was a standout performer in the Chicago rotation in his early 20s, and the $65MM contract extension seemed like a justified cost following a four-year stretch that saw the former No. 9 overall pick throw 778 2/3 innings of 3.77 ERA ball in one of Major League Baseball’s most hitter-friendly environments. Danks, though, would pitch just 53 2/3 innings in 2012, the first season covered by his extension. Since returning from the surgery, he’s worked to a combined 4.84 ERA in 538 2/3 innings.
General manager Rick Hahn is addressing the media as we speak and has announced that right-hander Erik Johnson will join Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon and Mat Latos in the Chicago rotation (via USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, on Twitter). Hahn says that he informed Danks of the decision yesterday and called the decision a difficult one to make. While Danks’ production, of course, has dipped since that 2012 surgery, he’s been a member of the White Sox organization since late 2006, when he was acquired in a trade that sent right-hander Brandon McCarthy to the Rangers. That lengthy tenure has made Danks a well-liked fixture in the Chicago clubhouse, and Nightengale tweets that Hahn acknowledged that the move will not be a popular one among the players. Hahn, however, insists that the move would have been made even if the 18-8 White Sox’ record were reversed.
The dismissal of Danks marks the second time in the past six weeks or so that the Sox have seen a respected veteran depart from the clubhouse. First baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche, of course, infamously elected to retire after White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams asked him to reduce the frequency with which his son accompanied him to the ball park. (LaRoche was said to have been promised unlimited access for his son as a contingent of signing with the Sox.) However, a club striving to win now, as the Sox are, is often forced into this type of decision. Johnson’s solid performance at Triple-A in both 2015 and in 2016 has played a role in the decision as well; the 26-year-old former Top 100 prospect has a 3.74 ERA in 21 2/3 innings this season and worked to an excellent 2.37 ERA in 132 2/3 innings with Charlotte last season.