So why did general manager Ken Williams use the "R" word for the first time in his 12 years on the job during the annual Winter Meetings in December at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas? Williams pointed out Thursday during a conference call to officially announce John Danks' five-year, $65 million extension that this modified roster changeover never was intended to be a "falling domino" sort of rebuilding.
"As I tried to explain, we entered into the Winter Meetings looking at all options, and this was one of them," Williams said, referring to bringing back Danks through an extension as opposed to trading him. "We explored value there and obviously decided on doing this instead.
"Of course there was interest. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to sign John. I think John proved by his actions that he likes Chicago and the organization and wants to be part of something that transforms into a winner on the field."
The Danks extension may have thrown White Sox fans for a temporary loop, considering Danks was entering the 2012 season in his last year of arbitration eligibility and seemed to have high trade value. That value might have been reduced by only one year of new team control.
Williams wouldn't go into what he asked for in a proposed Danks deal, before the team reached out to Danks' representative Jeff Berry shortly after the Winter Meetings. But to further illustrate the White Sox rebuild was not aimed at gutting the team, Williams certainly wasn't giving Danks away.
"It wasn't going to happen," Williams said. "I tried to articulate to everyone that the only way we would move an impact player is if we got impact players back, young impact players back for whomever it was we moved. We are still in win mode, but still in a little bit of a rebuilding phase.
"That message got lost after I said we were rebuilding. I did say this would not be dominoes falling in terms of a true rebuilding. We have too many good veterans and veterans looking to bounce back. We have filtered in our fair share of younger players from throughout our system. So it's not a traditional rebuild."
Then what plan will Williams and his staff exactly follow?
Bringing back Danks and putting the 26-year-old at the top of the rotation seems to indicate the White Sox are going after the Tigers in the American League Central while trying to compete with the up-and-coming Indians and Royals. But why did they trade a closer on the rise in Sergio Santos, whom the team could have potentially controlled for six years?
One answer is that modified rebuild, where the White Sox will try to contend while trying not to get trapped in roster no-man's land. They liked the upside of right-handed starter Nestor Molina in the Santos trade, and felt as if they were dealing from a position of strength in the back end of the bullpen.
In regard to future moves, Williams doesn't see any on the immediate horizon. That assessment means Quentin, right-hander Gavin Floyd and reliever Matt Thornton go to Spring Training with the White Sox. Then again, this Danks signing wasn't front and center three weeks ago either.
"You listen and you keep lines of communication open," said Williams, whose 2012 payroll sits near $97 million for 12 players. "We are more so looking at the deals than we are the money. If something makes sense to where we can fill out our roster with equal or almost equal sort of talent but add an impact piece in the Minors, those are things that are attractive.
"We'll continue to have dialogue. Absent of that, no, I would rather take our chances. I don't want to make a deal that's not in our best interest. Let the chips fall where they may in the aftermath."
Count Danks as one White Sox player who genuinely believes they can contend in 2012, with the southpaw including himself in the group of proven players who could bounce back from subpar 2011 showings. But if 2012 is more of the same frustrating, non-playoff baseball from the last couple of years, then maybe the falling-domino rebuilding was projected one year early on the South Side.
Peavy is in the last year of his contract with a $22 million option or $4 million buyout for 2013. Quentin becomes a free agent after 2012, as does catcher A.J. Pierzynski, while Floyd has a $9.5 million option for 2013 and Danks has just one year of full no-trade protection.
Even Dunn and Rios could be easier to move with two years remaining if they return to their previous levels of excellence. But for now, the focus stays on competing and winning, and the dominoes continue to stand.