Prior to the MLB lockout, the Mets were in the market for one more starting pitcher to round out their rotation, and there were some rumblings that they could turn to the Athletics to pick up one of their three available starters: Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, or Chris Bassitt. Once the lockout officially ended, the Mets wasted no time, calling the A’s up and acquiring Bassitt in a trade for J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller.
In pulling the trigger on this deal, the Mets gave themselves a terrific top of the rotation, headlined by Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. While those two will, deservedly, garner all the attention, Bassitt should not be overlooked. The 33-year-old right-hander, who will be a free agent following the 2022 season, has quietly established himself as a dependable top-of-the-rotation starter, finishing top-10 in AL Cy Young voting in each of the past two seasons. The under-celebrated starter will be able to continue shining in New York, while keeping himself out of the spotlight that will be taken by deGrom and by Scherzer.
Bassitt has played his entire career, sans his rookie season, in Oakland. He originally debuted for the White Sox before being unloaded, along with Marcus Semien, in a trade that netted Chicago Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa. He pitched to a 3.56 ERA in the 2015 season and was poised to break out in 2016, but Tommy John Surgery ended his season in May. It wound up costing him the remainder of that season and the entirety of the 2017 season. He returned to post a 3.02 ERA in 47.1 innings in 2018, but he really began to establish himself starting in 2019.
Over the course of the last three seasons, the right-hander has posted a 3.26 ERA, a 3.80 FIP, and a 1.13 WHIP in 364.1 innings pitched. During that span, he has struck out 23.5% of batters he’s faced while walking 6.8% of batters. He has also limited batters to a .286 wOBA against him. His best year came in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, when he concluded the season with a 2.29 ERA, a 3.59 FIP, and a 1.16 WHIP in 11 starts, which was good enough for an eighth place finish in the AL Cy Young race. He followed that up a 3.15 ERA, a 3.34 FIP, and a 1.06 WHIP in 27 starts last season en route to his first AL All Star Game appearance and a tenth place finish in Cy Young voting.
Bassitt presents a contrast from the team’s top two starters in that he boasts a more modest four-seam fastball, but uses it effectively. According to Brooks Baseball, his fastball velocity averages 93.79 mph, which is right around the league average, but well below where deGrom’s and Scherzer’s fastballs typically sit. Bassitt mainly utilizes three pitches to generate his desired result. Bassitt tosses his fastball 20.72% of the time, which is second-most among his pitches to his sinker, which he uses 37.23% of the time time. He also employs a cutter (17.41% of the time), and mixes in a change, a curveball, and a slider, though he uses those far less frequently.
Bassitt will be one of the team’s most important players this year, especially with some uncertainty around the back half of the rotation. As it stands, Carlos Carrasco is recovering from offseason elbow surgery and, while he’s expected to start the year on time, he’s 35 and coming off a down year. Meanwhile, Taijuan Walker is coming off knee surgery in the offseason and also proved ineffective once his workload increased. Bassitt will be relied upon to give the team length in his starts to save the bullpen, especially with the uncertainty around the team’s fourth and fifth starters.
Luckily, Bassitt is coming off his two best seasons and averages right around six innings per start in his career. If he can keep on the current path, the team will not just have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, but they could easily sport the best big three in Major League Baseball.