Jason Bay has had a productive week. A memorable week. A milestone week. And, likely, a very fortuitous week.
On Sunday, Bay turned 31 and, to celebrate, set a new career best with his 110th RBI. Then last night he set another career-best, with his 36 home run.
Bay picked a good season to have a career year; he will become a free agent after the World Series. And he will celebrate once again when he cashes in and signs a very lucrative, long-term pact during the offseason.
The left fielder has been on a tear and could conceivably hit his 40th home run in the Red Sox remaining 13 games. That could push his asking price even higher. At this point, one has to figure that Bay will looking for a minimum of five years and $75 million.
But Bay says he isn't concerned about hitting 40 homers this year, or any year. He says walks and RBI are more important to him. With 89 walks (plus four IBB) and 113 RBI, Bay has plenty to be proud of.
And his 181 HR since 2004 (his Rookie of the Year season) are 15th most in baseball in that period.
For Red Sox fans who didn't follow the National League, or the Prates more specifically, Bay has been a revelation. The guy is hella good.
And that will make him one of the most sought after free agents this offseason. Bay is younger and better than most of the other left fielders who will be vying for contracts.
Here's an alphabetical listing of the upcoming free agent left fielders, with their ages in parenthesis:
Garret Anderson (38)
Marlon Anderson (36)
Jason Bay (31)
Emil Brown (35)
Marlon Byrd (32)
Carl Crawford (28) - $10M club option with a $1.25M buyout
Johnny Damon (36)
David Dellucci (36)
Cliff Floyd (37)
Matt Holliday (30)
Reed Johnson (33)
Jacque Jones (35)
Gabe Kapler (34)
Greg Norton (37)
Wily Mo Pena (28)
Manny Ramirez (38) - $20M player option
Gary Sheffield (41)
Fernando Tatis (35)
Randy Winn (36)
Garret Anderson, Damon, Holliday, and Ramirez are all Scott Boras clients. Considering their age and other factors, it's hard to imagine any of them coming, or coming back, to Boston.
Crawford, Pena and Holiday are the only players younger than Bay in this group. But Holliday appears better suited for the NL after his underwhelming stint with Oakland this season. Pena hardly appears suited suited for the Majors Leagues—period—and the Sox already gave up him. Crawford is fast, great defensively, and is a career .295 hitter (.307 this season). But he doesn't hit for power, which is what the Red Sox need from their left fielder.
Despite his 21 home runs this season, JD Drew is not a true power hitter; he hadn't hit 20 since 2006 (with the Dodgers) and has hit 30 just once. In addition, Jacoby Ellsbury also isn't a power hitter (20 career HR). So the Red Sox need some thump from their left fielder.
Bay seems comfortable in Boston and has said he enjoys playing there. Being on a contender has got to feel rejuvenating after suffering through the continual grind of a languishing Pittsburgh team for 4 1/2 years.
Most of Bay's fellow free agents will be too old, or not of high enough caliber, for the Red Sox to give them serious consideration. Marlon Byrd could be an exception.
Byrd is 32, and is having a solid season; 17 HR, 79 RBI, 42 2B, .283/.325/..472
Yet he simply isn't as talented as Bay.
And that's why the Red Sox, short of a blockbuster trade, are going to re-sign Bay. The Sox' left fielder started the season scorching hot, cooled after the break, and has since resumed his torrid pace. He will have a lot of leverage in contract negotiations this winter.
For whatever reason, Bay and the Red Sox were unable to reach a mutually beneficial agreement during in-season negotiations, and that will be to Bay's benefit this winter.
The Red Sox used the potential of a widespread economic collapse as their reason for not extending Bay during last offseason. Oddly, they will have to hope for such a calamity to avoid paying Bay a significant salary this time.
Ask yourself this; if JD Drew is worth five-years and $70 million, just how much is Jason Bay worth?
That's the question Bay will surely pose to the Red Sox this winter.