Listen to Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins speak and you’ll often hear two words: run prevention.
Run prevention, according to Atkins, is integral to building a winning club, and the Blue Jays got better at it on Monday. Right-handed starting pitcher Chris Bassitt is signing a three-year, $63 million contract to join the Blue Jays, a deal first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Bassitt joins a Blue Jays rotation that already features Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and José Berríos. The 33-year-old won 15 games with the New York Mets last season, posting a 3.42 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 30 starts. He was even better in the final two months of the season, going 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Bassitt will likely slide into the third spot in the rotation behind Manoah and Gausman, creating a formidable trio that keeps the ball in the park. Manoah, Gausman, and Bassitt all ranked in the top 20 in fewest home runs allowed per nine innings among qualified starters last season. Bassitt was eighth in inducing ground balls.
The Blue Jays know what they’ll be getting from those top-three. Manoah, in just his second season in the big leagues, emerged as a Cy Young candidate, finishing third in the American League in ERA. He only got better as the season progressed; Manoah’s 0.88 ERA in September was the lowest in any calendar month in Blue Jays history. Gausman, in the first year of a five-year, $110 million contract he signed last November, lived up to his billing as a top-end starter who can get batters to chase his sharp splitter.
It’s after these three that question marks start to emerge, and it starts with Berrios. Berrios came to Toronto at the trade deadline in 2021 with high expectations and mostly met them, posting a 3.58 ERA in his first 12 starts in a Blue Jays uniform. The Blue Jays rewarded him with a seven-year, $131 million contract extension before 2022 and gave him the ball on Opening Day.
The rest, though, was a disaster. Berríos imploded in 2022, having the worst ERA (5.23) and opponent’s batting average (.286) of all qualified starting pitchers. He was second-worst in homers per nine innings. The Blue Jays head into 2023 hoping that was just an aberration, and that Berrios will be more like the two-time All-Star he was with the Minnesota Twins and his first half-season with the Blue Jays.
Bassitt, Manoah, Gausman, and Berríos are all under contract for at least the next three seasons, solidifying the Blue Jays rotation for 2023 and beyond. Beyond that, the options start to get less clear.
The Blue Jays acquired Mitch White from the Dodgers at last year’s trade deadline, but he struggled in Toronto and was even sent to the minors at one point in September. Yusei Kikuchi arrived in Toronto off an All-Star season with the Mariners, but he also lost his spot in the rotation. Kikuchi was more effective out of the bullpen as his strikeouts per nine innings shot up by more than six.
They’re the two leading contenders for the fifth rotation spot, barring another move by Atkins before the start of the season. But that is turning out to be the only blotch on an otherwise stellar pitching staff.
It’s all about run prevention for the Blue Jays front office and with Bassitt now in tow, they promise to be pretty good at it for the next few years.