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Thursday Pick Six: Martinez Contract’s Price Is Right; Why Did We Think Hitch-Yeo Tandem Would Work?

A stream of consciousness on some local and national sports headlines.

If you’re the Cardinals, here are four reasons to sign Carlos Martinez…

Martinez is 34-21 over his career with a 3.32 ERA.

…at this point his career: Madison Bumgarner, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. All four pitchers, to varying degrees, have out-produced their contracts and thus, created value for their clubs. Bumgarner almost single-handedly won the Giants a World Series in 2014, all for a measly $35.56 million over the course of a six-year deal that still has one year remaining. With the extension, Martinez would have been a free agent in three years. Given his current path to stardom, how much would he have demanded three years from now? David Price averages $31 million a year. Clayton Kershaw averaged, $30.7 a year. Max Scherzer averages $30 million a year. You get the point. There’s inherent risk in any contract extension, but the upside for the Cardinals in this deal is worth said risk.

You have to appreciate the proactive approach John Mozeliak has taken…

…to lock up key pieces of the roster for the next 3-5 seasons. Martinez is the club’s future ace and he’s now under contract through 2021. Alex Reyes will be a part of the future core for years to come and he’s under contract through at least 2021 as well. Same goes for Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Aledmys Diaz, Randal Grichuk, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty. Not every player mentioned is a “core” piece, but at the very least, they’re regular supporters. That’s three outfielders, two top-of-the-rotation pitchers, your first baseman, shortstop and second baseman that are all under contract for the next five seasons. Not every club can boast that level of certainty on their roster.

Why did any of us think this dynamic with the Blues…

…and Ken Hitchcock would work? People did question the decision to bring back Hitch at the time, but why wasn’t this ending predictable to all of us (myself included)? You had a team in transition, with new leadership, and a new coach in waiting. Yet you bring back the former coach whose philosophy is rooted in the system that you’re transitioning away from? This firing was vindication for anyone who thought the idea of bringing back Hitch didn’t make sense last year. In the end, the team lacked a clear identity and its play in the first half of the season was proof.

Hindsight is 20/20, but the Blues probably would have been…

…better off thanking Hitch following their exit from the Western Conference Finals and staying fresh. Due to some of the contracts that Doug Armstrong doled out in previous years, the Blues knew they couldn’t re-sign both David Backes and Troy Brouwer. At some point they knew they had to commit fully to Jake Allen. They knew they had a crucial decision coming up with Kevin Shattenkirk. And they knew they wanted to transition from a defensive-minded approach to a system that was going to open up the offense. So why stick with Hitch? Because they didn’t want to take a step backwards after reaching the Western Conference Finals. That was understandable given that Hitch wanted to return but in the end, the Blues wound up being a team without direction or a true identity.

I do expect the Blues to play well under Mike Yeo, at least…

…at the start. After Doug Armstrong’s announcement that Ken Hitchcock was fired, Jeremy Rutherford told Dunc and I on “The Turn” that he felt a sense of relief throughout the locker room. If that’s the case, that levity should lead to sharper play and perhaps even a sense of unity among the players. That said, if the defense and goaltending doesn’t improve quickly then it doesn’t matter who’s behind the bench. Jake Allen currently ranks 45th among the 47 qualified NHL goaltenders in save percentage. That’s atrocious and it’s not all Allen. The Blues had too many odd-man rushes, turnovers in the neutral zone, and open space in their defensive zone that led to goals in the first half of the season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Blues win a few games in Yeo’s opening week. Whether or not they can sustain that success and improve their playoff standing is the question.

On Thursday, Bernie and I discussed whether or not Dan Quinn…

…is emerging as the next great NFL head coach or if he’s simply a product of Kyle Shanahan. It’s a great question and led to a thought-provoking conversation. Here is how I would distinguish the situation: Shanahan has elevated Matt Ryan’s play, just as he elevated Matt Schaub and Robert Griffin III’s play in Houston and Washington, respectively. The Browns didn’t score a ton of points during Shanahan’s one year in Cleveland, but even they resembled a more efficient offense under Shanahan than most of the offensive play-callers that the organization has had over the years. That said, Shanahan has nothing to do with the Falcons’ defense, which is an ascending unit. Core defenders Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, Grady Jarrett, De’Vondre Campbell, Jalen Collins and Brian Poole were all acquired under Quinn the last two years. The Falcons started five rookies on that side of the ball this season and reached the Super Bowl while showing marked improvement in the second half of the year. Quinn had a specific vision in mind for his defense in Atlanta, one that centered on speed at every position. As strange as it sounds now given how prolific their offense is, if the Falcons stay on top of the league for more than just a year, there’s a good chance it’ll be Quinn’s defense that is the strength of the team.

More: Miklasz – In Signing Carlos Martinez, the Cardinals Have Their Ace In Place For a Long Time