Chris Bassitt’s expectations for the 2023 Blue Jays are as high as those of the average Toronto fan.
Bassitt and the Blue Jays announced that they had agreed to a US$63 million, three-year deal on Friday. The 33-year-old right-handed pitcher said that although he was pursued by several teams in free agency the Blue Jays were the right fit because he feels they could win it all.
“I think they’re capable of winning a World Series, or I would not have come,” said Bassitt in a video call with Toronto media. “I’m here to play, to win, a World Series. It’s that simple.
“I think Toronto with the pitching staff and obviously we have the bats, we have a defence that we can play, we have a full package. Sure, we need to get better, I think in all areas no matter what, but we have the capability of being something special.”
Bassitt is expected to contribute heavily to that special mix as the Blue Jays’ presumptive third starter behind Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah. He was 15-9 with a 3.42 earned-run average last season for the New York Mets, setting career highs with 30 starts, 181 2/3 innings and 167 strikeouts.
Drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2011, and made his big league debut with the club in 2014. Bassitt spent the next six seasons in Oakland and was an All-Star in 2021.
Bassitt is 46-3 with a 3.45 ERA in eight major league seasons.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins was bullish about his starting rotation with Gausman, Manoah, and Bassitt as his first three starters. He said on Monday that he also expects big things from a resurgent José Berríos and either Yusei Kikuchi or Mitch White as Toronto’s fifth starter.
“I feel like (the rotation) is top 10, for sure. You could argue top five,” said Atkins. “I feel good about some of the opportunities that will be created for others in our system.
“Now to add Chris Bassitt to that is a great addition, we’ll continue to think about ways to improve it, but I feel like we’re in a very, very strong position.”
Atkins said that run prevention was one of his targets in the off-season and that signing Bassitt and centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier — who was inked by Toronto on Wednesday — would go a long way to addressing that need.
“Now we’ll shift to offensive improvements and where those opportunities present themselves and continue to think about raising our ceiling in that area,” said Atkins about what’s next. “Again, an incredible starting point. I think we entered the off-season as if not the strongest team, certainly one of them.
“Building upon that we feel like we’re in a good position.”
Both Atkins and Bassitt turned to Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman to do some research before agreeing to the deal. Chapman and Bassitt were teammates on the Oakland Athletics and the two sides used the all-star infielder to vet the other party.
“I’m really excited about the person, the teammate,” said Atkins. “The competitiveness has always stood out to us as being elite and learning more about it from his former teammate and others around the game, I feel like it’s an incredible complement to the team.”
Bassitt said that Chapman and shortstop Marcus Semien, who was also on the Athletics and played in Toronto in 2021, were both helpful during his “background check.” He said that Semien explained how the Blue Jays organization tackled the challenges of playing through COVID-19 restrictions in 2021.
“How Toronto handled that whole year and how great they were to families and stuff like that went a long way,” said Bassitt. “Then, obviously, Chapman talking to me a little bit about the normalcy of a regular year and what it really can bring was big.”
Bassitt gets a $3 million signing bonus, payable within 30 days of approval of the contract by the commissioner’s office, and salaries of $18 million next year and $21 million each in 2024 and 2025.
He would get a $150,000 bonus for winning a Cy Young Award, $125,000 for second, $100,000 for third, $75,000 for fourth and $50,000 for fifth. He also would get $50,000 each for making the All-Star team, winning a Gold Glove or World Series MVP, and $25,000 for League Championship Series MVP.
Bassitt has the ability to block trades to eight teams unless he consents.