If 2009 was indeed Jason Bay’s last season in Boston, at least he’s not leaving empty-handed.
After his first full season in a Red Sox uniform, and yet another productive campaign at the plate, Bay earned his first Silver Slugger Award on Thursday, being named one of three American League outfield recipients.
The Red Sox have now had an AL Silver Slugger Award winner in nine consecutive years, beginning in 2001. In that span, Boston has claimed a combined 13 Silver Sluggers, with 10 coming from David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
In 151 games in 2009, Bay batted .267 while ranking third in the AL with 36 home runs and second with 119 RBIs. The home run and RBI totals were the highest in the three-time All-Star’s seven-year career, and he also added 13 stolen bases.
“I’m very excited to have won my first Silver Slugger,” Bay said through his agent, Joe Urbon. “Especially given the talent of the outfielders in the American League, it’s an honor.”
Bay came to the Red Sox right before the 2008 non-waiver Trade Deadline in the blockbuster three-team deal that ended up sending Ramirez to the Dodgers.
And Bay hasn’t stopped hitting since.
The 31-year-old left fielder batted .293 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in the final 49 regular-season games that year, then went on to hit .341 (14-for-41) with three homers and nine RBIs in 11 playoff games.
Since winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award as a member of the Pirates in 2004, the right-handed-hitting native of Canada has hit 30 homers and driven in 100 runs in four of the past five years.
As for the future, Bay — already deemed among the top players available this offseason — is the only one among the Silver Slugger Award winners who will be a free agent.
Considering the Red Sox don’t reach a deal with him in their exclusive negotiating window, Bay can sign with any team beginning Nov. 20. For obvious reasons, general manager Theo Epstein would like to bring him back. But considering this is Bay’s first opportunity to test the open market in his career, it may be a while before the outfielder’s home for 2010 and beyond is resolved.
“The fundamentals are in place in that he really wants to be here, and we’d love to have him,” Epstein said recently. “Sometimes the player has to go through a process. We have a good dialogue with his representatives. I think it’s obvious that when a player gets this far, he goes through the process.”
Next up, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s awards will kick off. The NL and AL Rookie of the Year recipients will be named on Monday, followed by the AL Cy Young on Tuesday, both leagues’ Manager of the Year on Wednesday and the NL Cy Young on Nov. 19.
The AL Most Valuable Player will be revealed on Nov. 23, followed by the NL MVP on Nov. 24.
OTHER CANADIANS TO WIN SILVER SLUGGERS:
Russell Martin 2007
Justin Morneau 2006 & 2008
Larry Walker 1992, 1997 & 1999