By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The White Sox’s release of veteran left-hander John Danks on Tuesday wasn’t shock, considering since the end of 2015, he wasn’t able to get anyone out.
The frustration really boiled over for the player and club in his last home start, on April 21 against the Angels. In that game, Danks walked five men in six innings. His career with Chicago was virtually over after that game.
The longest-tenured player and in his 10th season with the White Sox, Danks was the highest-paid player on the team, making $14.25 million in the last year of a five-year, $65-million deal. After signing what was then the richest contract in franchise history during the winter of 2011, Danks hurt his shoulder the next May and was never the same after surgery in 2012. He was 22-44 with a 4.84 ERA from that time until his release, which will be official Thursday.
“There is no doubt in my mind that after the shoulder surgery he was not the same guy,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “That was zero fault of John Danks, because he did everything in his power to fight back. Really giving the extent of the surgery, it was impressive how much he was able to contribute.”
Teammates weren’t shocked by the dismissal of their friend, whose 0-4 record and 7.25 ERA this season tells you that not much was left in that once-golden arm of the friendly Texan.
“It stinks,” close friend Chris Sale said. “John is a good dude and a big part of the chemistry that is going on in this clubhouse. Heck, he has been here for a decade. He has done some great things for this organization. He has done a lot of good things for the people he has been around in this clubhouse. He has definitely left his mark on me and a lot of guys in here.”
The White Sox’s American League-best 18-8 record and the production of the rest of the rotation helped push the decision to release Danks.
“We don’t make the decisions here,” said first baseman Jose Abreu who signed the biggest contract in franchise history in 2013. “We as players have at accept what happens and respect the front office, who makes those decisions. Sometimes they are unpopular decisions, sometimes they are not easy decisions. John was very kind to me. He was great with all of the guys. He was our most veteran guy. It is a very sad situation. We have to keep going. This is a business.”
Danks authored one of the most famous games in the last decade of White Sox baseball, pitching eight innings of shutout ball against the Twins in the 163rd game of the 2008 season. Jim Thome’s home run in the seventh inning of that game held up for the 1-0 win, allowing the White Sox to advance to the playoffs.
After the 2011 season, the White Sox made the decision to let iconic left-handed ace Mark Buerhrle become a free agent and give the money to Danks, the younger projected ace of the staff. As fate would have it, Buehrle, who had signed a four-year, $58-million contract with Miami, outperformed his former teammate, with a 53 -41 record and 3.78 ERA.
The White Sox will continue to search for a replacement internally and via possible trade.
“There is not a ton of activity in April and May,” Hahn said about the trade market. “You see the occasional player change hands. It’s usually a depth move than a guy who will be there to go into a rotation. That stuff will heat up more in June and July.”
Maybe so, but sources indicate that the White Sox aren’t just looking for pitching but are kicking the tires hard on a quality left-handed hitter. Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzales remains a big bat that will likely be moved by Aug. 1.With the $13 million kicked back to the team by Adam LaRoche’s retirement and Danks’ money coming off of the books next season, Chicago could absorb the $37 million owed to Gonzales through 2017.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.