With Waino out, Danks a trade fit for Cardinals
CHICAGO -- With apologies to John Mozeliak and Rick Hahn, there's a possible trade sitting on the tee like a brand new Titleist.
Maybe they're talking about it, but probably they're not. So here goes. Let's give it a rip and get the ball rolling.
With Adam Wainwrigh to miss the rest of the season with after tearing his left Achilles on Saturday in Milwaukee, the Cardinals have major issues with their pitching depth. They can fix that by making an offer to the White Sox for John Danks, who is healthy again after the shoulder surgery that shortened his seasons in 2012 and '13.
No, it's not quite as sexy of a trade as going and getting Cole Hamels. We get that.
But Danks could be a nice option, and he would come without the sticker-shock of a Hamels deal. He is a left-handed veteran cut from the same cloth as Wainwright -- a country boy you can count on to give you everything he's got.
That amounted to 193 innings over 32 starts last season, and based on how he looked Sunday, when he struck out eight over six innings in a 5-3 win over the Royals, there's no reason to think he won't at least eat up innings this season.
That's why he's valued by the White Sox, who owe him about $26 million on a contract extension that was signed after 2011. He's an expensive depth piece on a staff that is headed by Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana.
The Sox got very lucky when North Carolina State lefty Carlos Rodon slid to the third pick in last year's draft, and he could easily replace Danks in the rotation. He offers All-Star potential at entry-level prices, and if the White Sox are to be serious playoff contenders, they need the best rotation possible. Danks' contract allows him to veto deals with six teams but the Cardinals are not known to be on his no-trade list.
Promoted from Triple-A Charlotte last week to pitch out of the bullpen, Rodon could get a start next weekend as the White Sox navigate their way through the five-game suspensions Sale and Samardzija received after Thursday night's fight with the Royals. But something's got to give for him to get a regular spot, and moving Danks to the bullpen isn't considered an option.
Given how Hahn has built the White Sox payroll up to $118.6 million, an increase of almost $30 million from last season, he'd certainly listen to an offer that would allow him to save a little money.
Why would the Cardinals consider Danks?
Glad you asked. His style of pitching will be more effective in the National League than the AL.
Danks is 10-7 with a 3.09 ERA in 25 interleague starts. That includes a 3.25 ERA in 10 starts during the last four seasons, when stacked AL lineups in Detroit, Boston and Texas have pounded him. He's not going to replace Wainwright but he'll provide innings and get results beyond what his 5.64 ERA suggests.
Like Wainwright, Danks is valued for his clubhouse presence. He's quietly played a role in Sale's development, a consistent voice of reason and accountability who would be missed. But unless Rodon's showing in Spring Training was misleading, there's a lot to be gained by having him make 25-27 starts.
Danks, 30, threw one of the best games in White Sox history when he beat the Twins 1-0 in a Game 163 tie-breaker in 2008. But he has taken his lumps the last few years based in a hitter's park and a hitter's league. His 4.92 ERA since the start of the 2012 season isn't a selling point.
Danks' fastball velocity has declined steadily during the five-year, $65-million contract he signed as the White Sox allowed Mark Buehrle to leave for free agency. He averaged 92.2 mph in 2011 but that has dropped to 91.0 in '12, 89.9 in '13, 89.3 in '14 and 88.8 this season.
That's bad news; the good news is he has worked hard to improve his changeup in the hope of copying Buehrle's pathway to a long career. Danks threw 100 pitches on Sunday, and 35 of them were changeups.
His fastball consistently clocked in at 90 and 91 mph, making his changeups that ranged from 79 to 82 especially effective. It says something about your stuff when you get eight strikeouts against the Royals, the toughest team to strike out in the Majors. No starter had struck out more than five against them this year, and even Sale only got two on Thursday night.
"He just continues to get better for me,'' White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "His location [was good]. He was able to get ahead and throw his fastball. The separation of it was the big thing. He got [his fastball] up around 91, with really good action on it. … He was working down in the zone.''
Four of Danks' strikeouts came on swings and misses against his changeup. Three were called third strikes on fastballs (no doubt when hitters were looking for his off-speed stuff), and once he got got rookie Paulo Orlando to swing through a 90-mph fastball.
"I had a pretty good fastball, better than usual for whatever reason,'' Danks said. "I'll take all the separation I can get. I've been a changeup guy. I have to have something to get them off of it. … I have to locate it and get as much separation as I can. I try different grips and what not. If I can keep my fastball there, I'll be in good shape. I feel good. I wasn't trying to throw any harder today, it was just coming out. I'll take it.''
For the White Sox to get much of a return for Danks, they would probably have to send the Cardinals $10 million or more. That's not the way they've done business in the past but this might be the time to think about it. The Cardinals need help and the White Sox need to clear a spot for Rodon. This could work out for everyone involved.