Monday was a busy one in Major League Baseball, as a number of notable free agents came off the board. The biggest name that inked a new deal on December 12 was Chris Bassitt, one of the more underrated hurlers in the league. The Blue Jays have reportedly signed Bassitt for the next three seasons, and the righty should provide some punch in the middle of Toronto’s rotation.
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A Look at Bassitt
A 16th round pick by the White Sox in 2011, Chris Bassitt made his MLB debut in 2014 with Chicago. Bassitt made six appearances for the Sox, before being traded alongside Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien to Oakland in December 2014.
Across six seasons with the A’s, Bassitt had a 3.44 ERA and 121 ERA+ across 526 innings. The right-hander did miss significant time between 2016-2018 due to Tommy John surgery and stints in the Minors, but excelled from 2019-2021. During that time, the crafty right went 27-11, and pitched a tune of a 3.26 ERA. Bassitt finished in the top 10 in AL Cy Young voting in both 2020 & 2021.
With the Athletics in a rebuild, Oakland sent Bassitt to the Mets during the offseason last year. In Queens, Bassitt had arguably his best full season since being called up to the Majors. Bassitt set career highs in opponent average exit velocity (85.7 MPH), GB% (49.7%), and Topped% (36.1%). Much of his ability to induce weak contact can be attributed to his pitch repertoire that can befuddle hitters and their timing. The former Met’s arsenal includes a sinker, cut fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider. Bassitt’s slider — or sliders, to be precise — is an oddity. That’s because Bassitt has virtually two different kinds of sliders, one that sits in the low-to-mid 80’s and a slurve-ish breaking ball that functions in the low-70’s.
Bassitt won’t overwhelm hitters with high velocities. He does, however, have plus control and pitchability. Both tools should be a welcome addition to a Blue Jays team in need for rotation depth.
What it Means for the Blue Jays
Prior to this past weekend, the offseason has been rather quiet for Toronto. The most notable move up to this point was the trade that sent Teoscar Hernandez to Seattle, and brought back reliever Erik Swanson and minor leaguer Adam Macko. But over the past few days, the Jays added Kevin Kiermaier to its outfield core, and now Bassitt to its rotation.
Just from looking at Toronto’s roster, it was blatantly obvious that the Jays needed help in the rotation. Toronto has one of the best 1-2 punches at the top with AL Cy Young finalist Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, but it gets a bit more complicated after that. Both Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi struggled in 2022, and the Jays will look for a rebound from the two this upcoming season. Hyun Jin Ryu is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and right-hander Ross Stripling is now a free agent after a strong season for the Jays.
Signing a #3 or #4 starter was a must for Toronto this winter. Toronto paid a price to get one (three years/$63 million), but Bassitt should fit in nicely assuming the right-hander stays healthy. The 34-year old’s numbers in 2022 were excellent, and his ability to mix pitches and induce weak contact should fit on a team that is looking to make another step in the right direction next season.