Sox close to signing John Danks to 5-year, $65 million extension

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This is a 2011 photo of starting pitcher John Danks of the Chicago White Sox baseball team. This image reflects the Chicago White Sox active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

White Sox left-hander John Danks, who has been shopped throughout general manager Ken Williams’ rebuilding exploration journey this offseason, is close to signing an extension.

The Christmastime present, worth $65 million over five years, would come as a pleasant surprise to Sox fans and players hoping to avoid a breakup with the 26-year-old, who is the leading candidate to replace Mark Buehrle as the Opening Day starter in Texas on April 6.

A Sox source wouldn’t shoot down the reports but also said an announcement has not been scheduled. Danks would have to pass a physical before the deal would become official.

Danks was set to earn about $8-9 million in arbitration and would have been eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, which made him a tradable commodity. Williams was asking for a lot for Danks – he wanted two of the Yankees’ top prospects but reportedly was rebuffed during Winter Meetings trade talks two weeks ago – and may now shift his focus to trading righthander Gavin Floyd in efforts to restock the roster with younger players. Outfielder Carlos Quentin is eligible for free agency after next season and could be moved.

Danks’ best season was 2010 when he was 15-11 with a 3.72 ERA while topping 195 innings for the third consecutive season. He started horribly last season with eight straight losses in his first 11 starts before rebounding to finish 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA.

The Sox believe Danks, whose career record is 54-56 with a 4.03 ERA in five seasons with the Sox, is ready to assume Buehrle’s role as staff leader. While a surprise to some, signing Danks makes sense because of his age, upside and proven record.

“You can’t give away starting pitching, especially guys who are [No.] twos [in the rotation],” a major league source said. “Danks is a 1 in some places. He’s got it all — a driven, Cy Young-type guy with swagger and style. He’s a man not to be messed with.”

The Sox lost Buehrle to free agency two weeks ago. The fan favorite and close friend of Danks signed a four-year, $58 million deal with the Miami Marlins.

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