Jose Bautista managed to obtain a handful of the historic home run balls he launched throughout this past season for the Blue Jays. Now, he has a glistening silver bat to place alongside them in his trophy case.
On Thursday, Bautista was among the American League recipients of this year's Silver Slugger Awards. He earned one as an outfielder after belting a franchise-record 54 home runs in a breakout 2010 showing for Toronto.
This award comes after Bautista already received the Hank Aaron Award, honoring him as the top hitter in his league for the 2010 season. The only question now is how much consideration Bautista will receive for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, which is scheduled to be announced on Nov. 23.
"After winning the Hank Aaron Award," Bautista said, "being an offensive award, I sort of got my hopes up a lot more for the Silver Slugger. I knew I had a chance, but nothing was official, obviously. I'm really excited. It's a huge award to receive, identifying the elite hitter at each position. I'm just really honored and humbled."
The other top candidates for the AL MVP are Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Those three also picked up Silver Sluggers on Thursday.
Other winners included Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, Rays outfielder Carl Crawford, Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Rangers designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero.
Beyond Bautista, the Blue Jays had candidates for Silver Sluggers in outfielder Vernon Wells and catcher John Buck. One year after second baseman Aaron Hill and designated hitter Adam Lind each took home a silver bat, however, Bautista was the lone player from Toronto to earn one of the annual accolades.
Considering Bautista is eligible for arbitration this winter -- or possibly in line for a long-term extension -- the Silver Slugger certainly helps his bargaining position.
"I would think it does," Bautista said with a laugh. "I'm not an expert on what gives you leverage, or more bargaining power, but I can tell you this: If I didn't receive it, I probably wouldn't be in the same position now. Accolades are always good in the negotiation process."
AL SILVER SLUGGER WINNERS
The American League winners of the Silver Slugger Awards, with the number each has won in his career.
Joe Mauer, Twins
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Robinson Cano, Yankees
Adrian Beltre, Red Sox
Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Carl Crawford, Rays
Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers
Bautista said that he and his agent, Bean Stringfellow, have yet to enter into contract talks with the Blue Jays. Toronto's right fielder said he understands -- given that the Jays have been dealing with hiring manager John Farrell and piecing together the team's coaching staff -- and he hopes to begin discussing his contract around mid-December.
"The team has been busy with all the stuff going on," said Bautista, who earned $2.4 million in 2010 and is eligible to become a free agent next offseason. "They were doing the managerial search, the coaching staff. I think they're going to get to the negotiations down here pretty soon, but I haven't heard anything yet."
As much as the Silver Slugger helps Bautista's case, his numbers spoke for themselves.
Bautista's 54 home runs, which broke George Bell's 1987 franchise record of 47, led all of baseball. In 161 games, he hit at a .260 clip, collecting 35 doubles, 124 RBIs and 100 walks along the way. He paced Toronto's offense, which finished with 257 homers (tied with the '96 Orioles for the third-highest single-season total).
Bautista also became only the 26th player in baseball history to launch at least 50 homers in one campaign and just the 14th to pile up at least 50 homers and 100 walks in the same season. He was only the fourth player with at least 35 doubles, 50 home runs, 100 walks, 100 runs and 120 RBIs.
During his breakout season, Bautista was named to his first AL All-Star team and set a Major League record with a single-season increase of 41 home runs.
Among his AL peers, Bautista ranked first in homers, extra-base hits (92) and total bases (351), while ranking second in walks, third in RBIs, fourth in slugging percentage (.617) and fifth in runs scored (109). He established club records for a right-handed hitter in slugging and extra-base hits and became just the fourth player in team history to draw at least 100 walks in a season.
After picking the Hank Aaron Award and now a Silver Slugger, Bautista is hoping his impressive showing will net him some votes for the AL MVP as well.
"I'm certainly hoping," Bautista said. "It's such an open award when it comes to how people look at it and who's deserving and who's not. It's subject to the point of views of a lot of different people and there's not one set standard to pick someone. I think that's going to hurt me more than anything.
"But, I'm certainly hoping for some votes. I know I had a good year and receiving some of these awards definitely shows that a lot of people have been noticing."