Some interesting developments in the American League Central the last 24 hours.
The biggest move was a serious head-scratcher.
The White Sox have extended the contract for left-handed starting pitcher John Danks, who was strongly believed to be on the trading block as GM Kenny Williams tries to rebuild the franchise.
Guess we were mistaken, because he’s not moveable now. Danks just found a whopper of a contract underneath his Christmas tree. Retail value: $65 million, through 2016.
Nobody’s really sure what the rush was for the White Sox. Danks wasn’t eligible for free agency until after next season. Williams easily could’ve waited until next summer, perhaps to make sure Danks stays healthy and bounces back from a tough season, but also to see if there’s a trade offer out there that’s too good to pass up.
You lock up the Jered Weavers and the Justin Verlanders long term as soon as you can.
John Danks? He’s no Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver. Danks was 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA this season. Not saying he’s bad. This was a down year. But even at his best, he’s never received a single Cy Young vote.
Yet, interestingly, the White Sox have given him more than they were willing to commit to the ace of their staff for the last decade — another left-hander, Mark Buehrle. Buehrle, of course, gave the White Sox a chance to match the Marlins’ $58 million offer. They responded, apparently, by not even offering a buck.
The thought was the White Sox were tapped out — after breaking the bank last offseason on burly slugger Adam Dunn, who hit more like Adam Everett as the White Sox flopped in 2011 — and were looking to trade some of their more valuable pieces, like Danks.
They already dealt away their closer, Sergio Santos, to the Blue Jays for a pitching prospect.
But Danks, 26, stays. The same probably can’t be said for fellow starter Gavin Floyd, left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, or slugging outfielder Carlos Quentin. Then again, with Williams, who the heck knows.
Taking a quick look around the rest of the AL Central:
* The Twins just signed veteran starting pitcher Jason Marquis to a one-year, $3 million contract. He brings his 4.55 career ERA to Minneapolis. That might be good enough to make him the ace of that staff. So far this offseason, the Twins kept Matt Capps over Joe Nathan, signed Josh Willingham over Michael Cuddyer, lost Jason Kubel and signed Jamey Carroll. Terry Ryan, back as the general manager, isn’t restoring much confidence in the Twins Cities.
* The Tigers haven’t made much news this offseason, a rarity under GM Dave Dombrowski. They added veteran reliever Octavio Dotel, to help bridge the gap between starters and the dynamic back-end duo of Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde. Now, with word that Al Alburquerque is out till July because of elbow surgery, the Tigers might look to add some more relief help. And there is no shortage on the free-agent market. Clearly, though, their top target is Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Expect the bidding wars to start for him after the first of the year.
* The Royals already have had a busy offseason, upgrading their rotation and bullpen. And their everyday lineup is pretty much set. So don’t expect much more news from them through Opening Day. The Indians, however, might be a different story. They’ve done little so far (yes, trading for Derek Lowe qualifies as little), but are eager to add a signifcant bat to the lineup. It won’t be Prince Fielder. They don’t have that kind of cash. But there are rumblings they are in on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes. His biggest paydays are behind him, and he might only demand a three-year deal. Hence the Indians’ interest.