Red Sox need to rebound in 2021 to avoid a possible J.D. Martinez opt-out

Jul 12, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, United States; Boston Red Sox left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) watches batting practice during summer practice at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 12, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, United States; Boston Red Sox left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) watches batting practice during summer practice at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

The Red Sox need to compete in 2021 to keep J.D. Martinez

There isn’t much going on in the way of the offseason as of now for the Red Sox. A few signings to beef up some in-need areas in the lineup but that’s been about it. One big hurdle that they needed to clear early on was the possible opting-out of J.D. Martinez. The slugger has once again chosen to remain with Boston but he has one more opt-out clause remaining in his contract, and the team needs to make sure he never thinks about it.

What exactly could the Red Sox do in order to have Martinez forget that he has that free pass to walk out the door after 2021? Simply put, they need to show some fight and compete. Easier said than done, I know, but the first part is all about how they’re going to attack the free agent and trade markets. They don’t need to have J.D. in the war room with them but by them making moves and not just being in rumors, that could build some confidence within the big DH.

Just think about it, one year after they steamrolled the league and won the World Series they crashed and burned finishing third in the AL East and missing the playoffs. Two years after that last championship, they traded away a former CY Young winner and a generational talent who happened to be J.D.’s best friend on the team. Oh yeah, the Red Sox finished in the basement of the division and as the fourth-worst team in the entire league.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had chosen to opt-out after 2020 but luckily his agent is Scott Boras and Boras is anything but foolish and emotional. As of now, it looks like we won’t be seeing the Universal DH make its return in 2021 so his landscape of suitors drastically dropped. Add in teams not wanting to splash down big cash due to COVID-related budget constraints and his best bet was staying at home with the Red Sox.

This could all come crashing down after the 2021 season though where it looks like the league will be trying to get more and more fans into the stands. With vaccines rolling out state by state we could see the restrictions on public gatherings loosened which means more money coming to the owners.

I know, let’s all take a moment to feel bad for the super-rich guys and their yachts. But if owners begin to feel more comfortable with spending on talent again and the possible addition of the Universal DH for 2022, we’re back at J.D. seeing greener pastures.

If Chaim Bloom wants to ensure he has a power-hitting bat in the lineup for the future, then he needs to go out and show Martinez that the team isn’t just laying over and dying. I’m still a bit surprised that the team hasn’t approached J.D. about a restructured deal that would keep him in Boston longer and remove the opt-outs. The DH has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to finish his career with the Red Sox and it just hasn’t come to fruition yet.

Martinez struggled big time in 2020 hitting just .213/.291/.389/.680 with just 7 homers and 27 RBI. This was a bit of a shock as J.D. was crushing balls in spring training and during the short-lived summer camp ahead of the season. A lot of players struggled with the new handcuffs put into place for this season and he was one of them.

With the inability to watch his previous at-bats and see where his mechanics may have gone wrong, he never got out of the blocks. Fans saw him swinging at pitches he never would’ve in 2019 and definitely not in 2018.

It looks as if the league is working out a way to bring back the video rooms, with attendants, so players can watch their at-bats to make in-game adjustments. This will be huge for J.D. as he’s one of the most calculated hitters in the game today and will tirelessly study his video footage. It’s expected that he’ll bounce back in a big way in 2021 which could also re-ignite the league’s interest in his talents if he thinks opting-out is the way.

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The bottom line here is that the Red Sox need to put in some serious effort if they want to keep J.D. on board after this season. He can walk free and clear when the 2021 campaign comes to an end and test the free-agent waters next winter if he so chooses. If Boston goes out and does what they say they want to do via free agent signings and trades this winter, then I don’t see the slugger wanting to walk away.

They also can’t finish at the bottom of the barrel again. Making good on offseason promises is one thing, but executing with the new acquisitions is another. Brining back Alex Cora should also be a massive boost to J.D.’s morale and confidence as the slugger greatly excelled under the skipper.

Bloom also needs to meet with Boras to work out a restructured deal that won’t cripple the team financially but will keep Martinez here for the foreseeable future. Let him know that you want him and you want him for more than just the next two years, job security is a hell of a relief.

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J.D. Martinez has been a force to be reckoned with since signing with the Red Sox ahead of the 2018 season. Though he had his slump in 2020, as many did, I see big things for the DH in 2021. If Boston wants to keep their big man happy at home they’ll need to work some magic this winter so he forgets about possibly opting-out next fall. All it takes is the gesture that the team is trying in order to build confidence in a player not wanting to see if the grass is truly greener on the other side.