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NY Yankees and John Danks: How a Trade Could Work for Both Teams

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2011

NY Yankees and John Danks: How a Trade Could Work for Both Teams

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    Following the trade that saw the Chicago White Sox send their closer Sergio Santos—along with the three years and more than $8 million remaining on his contract—to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 22-year-old RHP prospect Nestor Molina, Kenny Williams said something that had not come out of his mouth in more then a decade:

    "It is the start of a rebuilding. And you guys know I have not used that word in 12 years."

    The White Sox are rebuilding, and that means reducing payroll. What was a $127 million payroll in 2011 stands at $90.75 million entering the 2012 season—but that's just for 12 players.

    John Danks, a 26-year-old left-handed starter, will hit the open market following the 2012 season.

    Kenny Williams is no fool—he knows that the chances that he will have the payroll flexibility to re-sign the lefty, as Danks receives offers from teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are slim.

    As usual, the Yankees are in the market for starting pitching and definitely have interest in Danks—just not at the current asking price, which is said to be Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos.

    Coming to a mutually beneficial agreement on a deal for Danks makes sense for both clubs.

    Here's how.

What Is Danks' Market Value?

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    Trevor Cahill, now a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, was traded by the Oakland Athletics on Friday night along with left-handed reliever Craig Breslow in exchange for pitching prospects Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook and right fielder Collin Cowgill.

    Cahill is a 23-year-old right-handed pitcher who just finished his third season and is under team control through 2015.

    Danks is a 26-year-old left-handed pitcher who just finished his fifth season and is under team control through 2012.

    Aside from those stated differences, their first three years in the league are virtually identical.

    Danks is 31-33 with a 4.06 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 417 strikeouts over 534.1 innings pitched.

    Cahill is 40-35 with a 3.91 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 355 strikeouts over 583 innings pitched.

    We can use the return that Oakland received for Cahill to establish what fair market value for John Danks would be.

    Both teams did well here—and such a deal is possible between the Yankees and White Sox.

Add Matt Thornton to the Mix

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    According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the White Sox have been trying to trade left-handed reliever Matt Thornton since July.

    Thornton, 35, is owed $11 million over the next two years, and a team option for 2014 that will either bring a $6 million salary or $1 million buyout.

    The Yankees were linked to Thornton previously and are always looking to add a second quality left-handed arm to the bullpen.

    An All-Star in 2010, Thornton's numbers slipped a bit in 2011, though they were still respectable: 2-5. 3.32 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 63 strikeouts over 59.2 innings pitched.

    Lefties had more success against Thornton last year than usual, hitting .260 against him. For his career, he has held left-handed batters to a .229 average.

    Even after trading their closer, Sergio Santos, Kenny Williams mentioned Thornton, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed as potential closers in 2012 and said while he was expecting to move a starting pitcher instead to acquire Nestor Molina, he parted with Santos because he came from an area where the team had a lot of depth.

    The Yankees can afford to take a chance that Thornton's regression in 2011 was not a sign of a decline in his skills, and the White Sox really cannot afford to not move Thornton and the money remaining on his contract.

Dellin Betances Headlines the Package Headed to Chicago

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    If you weren't convinced by now that the Trevor Cahill trade is a good comparison for the Danks/Thornton trade we're discussing here, take a look at this.

    Jarrod Parker and Dellin Betances, like John Danks and Trevor Cahill, are very similar.

    Both are 23-year-old right-handed starters.

    Their numbers in the minor leagues are virtually identical.

    Betances has a 24-23 record with a 3.49 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 491 strikeouts over 426 innings pitched.

    Parker has a 28-19 record with a 3.49 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 324 strikeouts over 345.2 innings pitched.

    Betances, who has front-of-the rotation potential, gives the White Sox a solid piece to build around.

Brandon Laird Goes West with Betances

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    The White Sox don't need middle infielders, with Gordon Beckham and Alexi Ramirez at second base and shortstop, respectively.

    Throw in 23-year-old shortstop Osvaldo Martinez, one of the prospects they received as compensation in the Ozzie Guillen trade with the Miami Marlins.

    That takes players like Eduardo Nunez and David Adams out of the package.

    One can safely assume that when Kenny Williams asked for Jesus Montero, it was for his hitting prowess and not so much because he saw him as the catcher of the future in Chicago—that title likely belongs to Tyler Flowers.

    With incumbent catcher A.J. Pierzynski a potential trade candidate himself as he enters the last year of his contract, Flowers could be pushed into action in 2012 and would likely be backed up by a seasoned veteran—giving Chicago no real reason to ask for Austin Romine as part of the deal.

    Enter Brandon Laird.

    Laird, 24, is primarily a third baseman.

    The White Sox are going with youngster Brent Morel at the hot corner, but he did little offensively last year as the starter, hitting .245 with a .645 OPS to go along with 10 home runs and 41 RBI.

    Laird has the ability to play both corner positions in the infield as well as the outfield, giving Chicago manager Robin Ventura options should a starter suffer an injury or Morel continue to put up less-than-stellar offensive numbers.

Zoilo Almonte Rounds out the Deal

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    Zoilo Almonte is a 22-year-old outfielder who split time between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2011, hitting a combined .273 with 15 home runs, 77 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

    He has some power and some speed, but he really doesn't project as someone who would be able to crack the Yankees' lineup anytime soon.

    Almonte gives the White Sox another prospect with substantial upside to do with what they will, should that be to continue his development or use him as a piece in another trade somewhere down the line.

Final Thoughts

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    While Kenny Williams would likely prefer to package Danks along with one of the larger contracts he finds himself stuck with—Alexis Rios, Adam Dunn or Jake Peavy—the chance of that happening is remote.

    The Yankees would get two players they covet along with the millions that they are owed, and the White Sox would continue to reduce payroll while acquiring three potential building blocks going forward.

    Some will say that an offer of Betances and Laird is in itself paying too much, and I might be inclined to agree.

    But Kenny Williams is going to make the Yankees give up a third piece if they really want to acquire Danks, as would any GM worth his contract.

    Would a Betances/Laird/Almonte package be enough to acquire Danks?

    Only Kenny Williams knows for sure, but there is a deal to be made if Williams is willing to be somewhat reasonable and backs off his initial asking price.

    Assuming for a second that it is enough, and that the Yankees would re-sign Danks following the 2012 season during the "exclusive negotiating period" they have with their own free agents, the Yankees' 2013 starting rotation could potentially look like this:

    • CC Sabathia
    • Manny Banuelos
    • Ivan Nova
    • John Danks
    • Phil Hughes

    Not too shabby.

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