Giving Thanks: The National League Central

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We’re getting dangerously low on liquor in the Calcaterra house. And my family won’t even be over here for several hours yet.  This could be a problem.

More of what each team has to be thankful for:

Cincinnati Reds: Whatever spirits came to Dusty Baker in the middle of the night last Christmas Eve and convinced him to change his ways. Which must have happened, because neither Mike Leake, Travis Wood nor Aroldis Chapman were abused by Baker. Then, the next morning, he sprung to his window and called for an Intelligent Fine Lad to go straight to the Poulterer’s on the corner and buy the prize turkey hanging in the window.

St. Louis Cardinals: That the star power — Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter, Wainwright — and the youngins’ — Garcia and Rasmus — form the basis of a team that should have no problem contending in 2011. And that whatever freakish stuff caused them to lose tons of games to really bad teams in August and September — while performing admirably against good teams — is likely a rare occurrence. Like Halley’s comment or something.

Milwaukee Brewers: That Doug Melvin admitted during his introductory press conference for new manager Ron Roenicke that the pitching is the problem. You can’t cure yourself until you know what ails you.

Houston Astros: Brad Mills. I don’t know how much credit to give him — maybe he truly has unlocked mysterious secrets and has become the Brett Myers Whisperer — but there certainly is a sense that he’s running a tighter ship.  I still think there are bleak days ahead, but Mills seems better equipped to deal with them than, say, Cecil Cooper was.

Chicago Cubs: The utter shamelessness of their owners. It has already gotten them a new spring training facility. It will likely end up getting them taxpayer-funded renovations to Wrigley Field too. Hey, you never get anything you want unless you ask.

Pittsburgh Pirates: That there is a practical limit to how many games a team can lose. Sure, it’s possible that a club could go 39-123, but the competitive ebb and flow of Major League Baseball caps it, roughly speaking, at 120 losses.

Cardinals extend José Martínez through 2020

Jose Martinez
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First baseman/outfielder José Martínez agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Cardinals on Saturday, per a team announcement. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Martínez will receive $3.25 million in the deal plus incentives if he earns a more stable place within the starting lineup.

Martínez, 30, played 887 games in the minors before making his major-league debut with the Cardinals at the tail end of the 2016 season. The veteran first baseman has been nothing but productive in the three years since his debut, however, and turned in a career-best performance in 2018 after slashing .305/.364/.457 with 17 home runs, an .821 OPS, and 2.3 fWAR through 590 plate appearances. While he brings some positional flexibility to the table, he’ll be forced to compete against Dexter Fowler and Tyler O'Neill for a full-time gig in right field this year, as Paul Goldschmidt currently has a lock on first base.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the extension wasn’t solely precipitated by Martínez’s productivity in the majors, but by a competing offer from an unnamed Japanese team over the offseason. Goold adds that Martínez would have earned “significantly more than he would in the majors” had the club sold his rights. In the end, they ultimately elected to ink him to a more lucrative deal themselves. He’ll be eligible for arbitration in 2020.