What Chris Bassitt hopes to bring to Blue Jays rotation in 2023 and beyond

The Blue Jays are getting a fiery competitor in Chris Bassitt. (Getty)
The Blue Jays are getting a fiery competitor in Chris Bassitt. (Getty)

Chris Bassitt hates losing. He hates losing more than he loves winning. He’s always been like that.

“If I win, it doesn't really mean much to me. But if I lose, I won't be able to sleep too much at night,” Bassitt said Monday, laying out his mindset to members of the Toronto media.

When a team quizzed Bassitt during the 2011 MLB Draft process about whether his desires for winning outweighed his resentment toward losing, the young pitcher pondered the question and decided on the latter. The fire was lit, and it has continued to burn ever since. Even as he tangled with injury or inconsistency to start his career, that disdain for losing remained.

A year ago, at 33, Bassitt tossed a career-high 181.2 innings with the New York Mets. This winter, he parlayed his recent success into a three-year, $63-million deal with the Blue Jays. And — surprise, surprise — his utmost priority is to bring a championship back to Toronto.

“I'm here to play to win a World Series. It's that simple,” Bassitt said. “And I think Toronto, with the pitching staff we have, the bats that we have, and the defense that we can play, we kind of have a full package.”

For Bassitt, the jump to Toronto was, naturally, about hopping into the best situation to win, but there were other elements that nurtured his agreement with the Jays as the two sides chatted throughout the offseason. The right-hander wanted a multi-year deal, which Toronto was happy to oblige, and he also wanted to “vet” the organization first.

Bassitt reached out to Matt Chapman and former Blue Jay Marcus Semien, two veterans he shared the field with during his time in Oakland. Semien was especially helpful, Bassitt said, as the infielder delved into how helpful the Blue Jays staff had been at accommodating players’ families during the 2021 COVID season, which saw the Jays move from Dunedin to Buffalo to Toronto.

The city itself made a lasting impression, too.

“[It’s] lively, super clean, super safe, with great people,” said Bassitt, whose family lives several hours across the border in Ohio. “If you’re gonna be in a city, I think Toronto is hard to beat.”

On the Blue Jays’ end, general manager Ross Atkins gushed about how Bassitt’s seven-pitch arsenal and fiery demeanour will make the club better, especially in a playoff setting.

“[We’re] excited about the person, the teammate,” Atkins said. “The competitiveness has always stood out to us as being elite, and learning more about it from his former teammates and others around the game, I feel like it's an incredible compliment to the team.”

That competitive energy flared up plenty of times during Monday's introductory Zoom presser. Bassitt is especially jazzed for the challenge of pitching at Rogers Centre, a home ballpark that slightly favours hitters over pitchers. After years of pitching at the spacious Oakland Coliseum followed by a stint at pitcher-friendly Citi Field, Bassitt can’t wait to prove the haters wrong.

“I love the people that try to say, ‘Well, you're pitching at a pitcher's ballpark, so your stats are really good. And if you went to, say, Yankee Stadium, then your stats would be really bad,’” Bassitt said. “I'm a smart pitcher, and I know how to pitch to a ballpark. I’m one of the leaders in weak contact.”

Toronto already has a passionate starting crew that includes Kevin Gausman, with whom Bassitt shares many characteristics, as well as bulldog Alek Manoah and bounce-back candidate José Berríos. Mixing in Bassitt’s high-octane spirit should only make the rest of the group better.

The addition of Bassitt appears to be the final touch-up to Toronto’s rotation. Even with Yusei Kikuchi or Mitch White manning the fifth spot, Atkins called the Blue Jays’ current starting pitching group “top-10…you could argue top-five” in baseball, and it’s hard to disagree with him.

From here, the Jays will focus on adding some “run creation” in the form of a hitter or two. Atkins said outfield was a logical spot for improvement, and that he could also bolster the relief core if the fit was right.

Should Toronto execute another big outfield signing — Michael Conforto is the lone big-fish outfielder remaining — this offseason can quite easily be deemed a success. But even if the Jays are done adding, there’s plenty for Blue Jays fans to cheer about this winter. And, contrasted to the deflation fans felt when Teoscar Hernández was traded in November, that’s a darn good thing.

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