Yesterday the White Sox made what we already knew official for over a week. They signed starting pitcher John Danks to a five-year, $65 million extension. A surprising move considering just weeks ago GM Kenny Williams was trying to trade the left-hander and dropped the dreaded word “rebuild.” Williams has since backed off the notion of rebuilding, well slightly. “We are still in win mode,” Williams said. “But at the same time you are in win mode, you can be in a little bit of a rebuilding phase.” Confused? Good, you should be. Mixed signals this off-season are leaving Sox fans baffled.
When you see a hiring like Robin Ventura it sets off a signal in your head. You’re probably thinking former player with no managerial experience means our team is on the way to rebuilding mode. As you start to mentally prepare yourself for that, the next shoe drops. The young closer we just signed to a multi-year extension is traded to the Blue Jays for a prospect. By now you have come to grips, the White Sox are in full rebuilding mode. As the Winter Meetings approached, you got the feeling from multiple reputable reporters the Sox were looking to sell rather than buy. Then nothing happens, the team not only stands pat but they sign a pitcher coming off a 8-12 record with a 4.33 ERA to the longest extension given to a pitcher in team history and they give him no-trade/partial trade clauses. You prepared yourself for the inevitable only to be blindsided with a new plan. Or is it new?
Conceivably, how realistic is it to rebuild this team right now? Nobody will take on the contracts of Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy and Alex Rios after the seasons they had last year. Those three alone make up $40 million of the payroll alone for next year. As long as those three have multiple years left on their contract you are not in a rebuilding mode. These are not young players to build around, they are you better win now players. Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski are not young cornerstones of any franchise. Even Alexei Ramirez is already 30 while Carlos Quentin, Gordon Beckham, Tyler Flowers and Gavin Floyd are all north of 25-years-old. Let’s not kid ourselves; this team was never in rebuilding mode.
Kenny Williams has taken a lot of heat as he should for some of the transactions the last couple years. However his biggest mistake might have been trying to sell this notion of rebuilding and possibly believing in it himself. In a major market with a large payroll this organization needs to realize the time is always now. Don’t be confused anymore Sox fans, your team is built to contend for a division. Now can they do it? That is a hard question.