CHICAGO -- By the time you read this week's edition of the Inbox, I'll be in New Orleans and preparing for what I hope to be a Michigan Sugar Bowl victory.
The good news for White Sox fans faithfully following this weekly question-and-answer segment is that Michigan football will take a hiatus for a while. Then again, Michigan men's basketball is 12-2 and ranked 13th in the country, so beware.
I hope everyone has a healthy, happy and prosperous 2012. Let's take a look at questions concerning the White Sox upcoming fortune.
With John Danks getting a five-year extension, is this something general manager Ken Williams would have done to beef up his trade value a little bit since he won't be a free agent after next season? They might be able to get a couple of the top pitching prospects from other clubs now that the team will have more years of control over him.
-- Bob, Monee, Ill.
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There's no question that Danks being under four years of control after 2012 is more attractive to opposing teams as compared to Danks becoming a free agent after the upcoming season. If the time comes to trade him, then he certainly should command more in a deal. That time probably won't come in 2012, as Danks has full no-trade protection in his first year and limited protection over his next four.
Ultimately, the White Sox hope they have found their ace in the 26-year-old left-hander, who has the same fearlessness, determination and durability possessed by his mentor, Mark Buehrle. But in this day and age, where prospects are such a prime commodity, it would have been near impossible to get the top one or two for a player who would have soon been on the open market.
Does the new extension for Danks make him the Opening Day starter? Also, who will catch the ceremonial first pitch for home games now that Buehrle is gone?
-- Nick, Schererville, Ind.
That Opening Day job seemingly has to go to Danks. And since he was catching the ceremonial first pitches on days when Buehrle pitched last year, Danks should slide into that role full-time. The question now becomes: who is Danks' backup? Danks has a long way to go to match Buehrle's accomplishments in this volunteer area, a first-pitch list that includes Justin Bieber, Stone Cold Steve Austin and a dinosaur.
I don't understand what Williams is doing for 2012. First, he trades Sergio Santos, and it appears either Danks, Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin, or all three of them, are next. Then, Danks is signed to a big contract. Help me understand.
-- Tim, Romeoville, Ill.
Williams and the White Sox are going for it as best they can in 2012, with some untradeable contracts preventing a full rebuild process, while also trying to add some much-needed young pitching prospects. The only real surprise trade of the three offseason moves was Santos, as he seemed to thrive in his first year holding down the closer's role and the White Sox potentially had the right-hander under six years of control.
I expected Quentin to be traded, even though he still had major value to the team and I wouldn't have made the move. But the White Sox are deep in the outfield, with some prospects potentially helping in the future. To be honest, I was surprised the White Sox picked up Jason Frasor's option, but they ended up getting a couple of arms in return.
A trade of Matt Thornton or Floyd would indicate a full rebuild is on as much as is possible in 2012. If these players stay put, then Williams still has a design on trying to catch the Tigers in the American League Central.
With the Padres receiving a nice talent package for Mat Latos, what could the White Sox get in return for Floyd if he is traded?
-- Nick, Park Ridge, Ill.
Floyd has just one year and an option left on his contract, so I would guess not the same high-level prospect haul as Latos. In fact, if Williams got anything close to the same talent offer the Padres received from the Reds, then Floyd would be gone. Floyd and Thornton should be watched over the next month, as they appear to be "on the clock" with Quentin gone and Danks re-signed. There's a good chance both will start the season with the White Sox, but they should draw some interest.
Why not Ryan Theriot for a utility infielder, third baseman or second baseman if Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham don't hit? What about prospect Tyler Kuhn at second base in 2012?
-- Mark, Batavia, Ill.
It will be interesting to see if the White Sox try to find a veteran to replace Omar Vizquel at the utility-infielder spot, or if it's a battle between Ozzie Martinez and Eduardo Escobar for the job. Williams said the team has a little more money to work with after trading Quentin, but I'm not sure it's designated for the utility spot.
And remember, Brent Lillibridge told MLB.com last year that he would like to be viewed as an infielder as well as an outfielder. As for Kuhn, I've been told his skill set pencils him in more as a utility-type infielder, but I don't think he's ready to break camp with the 2012 team.
I'm a lifelong White Sox fan and Buehrle is one of my all-time favorite players. It seems to me that the contract that Mark signed with the Marlins wasn't all that expensive and could have easily been matched by the White Sox, especially for someone who has done so much for the team and is loved and respected by the fans. What happened?
-- Sol, New York, N.Y.
If $58 million is not all that expensive, then I would like to work for you or be part of your family, Sol. Everything you said about Buehrle is absolutely true. He's a White Sox icon and always will be, appreciated by everyone who works for the team, covers the team or follows the team. I really don't believe that the White Sox saw the market being this explosive for the southpaw.
They were looking more along the lines of a three-year, $30 million contract, but Buehrle was not taking a discount in what could be his last major multi-year deal if he decides not to pitch into his early 40s. I got the sense that the National League truly intrigued Buehrle from talking with him at the end of the 2011 season, but his camp was surprised the White Sox never made an official offer. The White Sox used that same level of money to give to Danks, who is seven years younger but not quite as accomplished as Buehrle at this stage.
I have been thinking about the season slogan for a few months now and am torn on two, which I would like your thoughts on. One is "Hang On," as we have no idea how the season will pan out. The second is, "Enjoy the Ride." Thoughts?
-- Tommy, Streator, Ill.
"Enjoy the Ride" is kind of catchy, conveying the sense that this team could be retooling or rebuilding, but hopes to be exciting either way.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.