Why Chris Bassitt signing will age well for Blue Jays

The Chris Bassitt signing seems like a safe bet from the Blue Jays. (Getty)
The Chris Bassitt signing seems like a safe bet from the Blue Jays. (Getty)
  • Bassitt features unpredictable pitch mix

  • Blue Jays know exactly what they're getting

  • Should fit nicely into Toronto's tight-knit rotation

Picture yourself as a left-handed hitter stepping into a major-league batter’s box.

You dig in as a lanky 6-foot-5 right-hander comes set on the mound. As far as pitchers go, he looks exceptionally ordinary. You’ve seen his warmups, too, and his 93-mph fastball runs arm-side, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.

The pitcher whips into motion, windmilling his arm high and his glove low as a sinker races to the outside corner for strike one. The next offering, despite being a few ticks slower than the 0-0 pitch, catches you off guard. The cutter dips inside and spins underneath your 0-1 hack.

At an 0-2 count, now you’re in protect mode. Maybe the tall righty flips a curveball in the dirt to change your eye level. Maybe it’s a changeup away. You can spit on both those offerings.

But then he rips the four-seamer up and in. The velocity tells your mind it’s a sinker — like the first pitch of the at-bat — but the heater stays straight, barreling up in the zone. Maybe you get a piece of it for a foul ball, or it rings your hands for a jam-shot pop-up. Maybe it freezes you, and you take the walk of shame back to the dugout after strike three. Either way, you were on your heels the entire at-bat.

That’s the Chris Bassitt experience. That aptitude for keeping hitters guessing is why the Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly committed $63 million to the 33-year-old over the next three seasons. And, best of all, his game may get even better with age.

Bassitt’s profile is mystifying. His fastball hovers around 93 mph with unremarkable spin rates. Baseball Savant tells us his chase rate was in the 10th percentile a year ago, awarding it an ominous dark blue rating, and his 37th-percentile extension was the lowest ranking of his career. Yet, despite all these shortcomings, Bassitt is a wizard at stifling hard contact — he held opposing hitters to an 85.3-mph exit velocity, earning a red-hot 95th percentile grade from Savant.

The sinker is the key for Bassitt. In 2022, the pitch was worth a decisive minus-16 runs, according to Savant, making it the best sinker in baseball (minimum 200 plate appearances). Bassitt uses his sinking fastball about one-third of the time, coupling it with a tight cutter and a loopier slider that buoyed him to a top-10 finish among starters in hard-hit percentage (32.8 percent).

Sinker guys tend to age well. The likes of Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto, and Corey Kluber have staved off Father Time into their mid-to-late 30s (early 40s for Wainwright) with a heavy dose of sinkers and a knack for painting corners. None of those guys are clinging to Cy Young status, but they’ve all remained serviceable as their bodies slowed down. Bassitt, who will be 36 when his deal with Toronto expires, just needs to eat innings and stay healthy for this signing to be a success.

The Blue Jays are committing a chunk of money to who Bassitt is right now, a refreshing contrast to last year’s signing of left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. Unlike how the Kikuchi narrative played out, there won’t be talks about “progress” or “projectability.” There’s no tinkering with who Bassitt is. He already has an identity.

In fact, Kevin Gausman, the Blue Jays’ other notable signing from last winter, profiles similarly. Few pitchers in baseball follow a more rigid game plan than Gausman’s four-seam up, splitter down routine. That’s been Gausman’s modus operandi since he hit rock bottom with the Cincinnati Reds three years ago. Now, every meticulous detail, from mental mapping to physical warmups, is about pitching within himself. At this stage of his career, Bassitt, like Gausman, knows who he is and how he must prepare. Collectively, the Blue Jays should feel a giant sigh of relief on Bassitt start days.

Of course, he’ll also be a stimulating teammate who weaves nicely into Toronto’s tight-knit starting pitching group. The rotation boys are a vocal crew who talk shop non-stop, often bouncing ideas and tips off one another. Last year, it was Gausman, the most veteran arm in the rotation, who undertook the initiative to help boost Kikuchi’s confidence when things were low. Adding Bassitt’s charisma to the group will only make things better.

Gausman was fired up when news broke of the Bassitt signing, even shouting out his new teammate on Twitter. Blue Jays fans, however, will be much more excited when Bassitt joins Gausman and two other starters for that pre-game walk to the dugout on Opening Day.

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