TORONTO — Chris Bassitt didn’t need the Toronto Blue Jays to sell him what they were building. The All-Star right-hander had already done his research and decided which teams he was willing to participate in free agency.
“I stopped everyone,” Bassitt said in a video call Monday about the suitors she spoke to. “I don’t need to be sold. Like, if I’m talking to you, I want to be there, sort of, and I definitely wanted to be in Toronto. I knew the players, I understood the living situation. I love the city. I’m three and a half hours away from my family in Ohio. I have all the boxes checked, so there’s no need to add anything.”
Toronto showed great interest early in the process, Bassitt said, and kept in touch as he considered his options. The team finalized a three-year, $63 million contract on Friday.
“Really excited about the person, the teammate,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said of Bassitt during a video news conference Monday. “Competitiveness has always stood out for us for being elite.”
Bassitt, 33, came to the market after going 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA for the New York Mets in 2022, setting career highs with 30 starts, 181⅔ innings and 167 strikeouts. He is 46-34 with a 3.45 ERA in eight major league seasons.
“Arsenal is unique in that it’s very dynamic,” Atkins said. “There aren’t too many pitchers who can concretely say they have seven weapons, if not more. It’s not fun to hit against someone who is so aggressive with so many weapons.”
Bassitt receives a $3 million signing bonus, payable within 30 days of contract approval by the commissioner’s office, and salaries of $18 million next year and $21 million each in 2024 and 2025.
Bassitt would receive a bonus of $150,000 for winning a Cy Young Award, $125,000 for his second, $100,000 for his third, $75,000 for his fourth and $50,000 for his fifth. He would also receive $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.
As part of his research on Toronto, Bassitt polled former Oakland teammates Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman about their experiences playing for the Blue Jays. The chance to reunite with Chapman, the Gold Glove third baseman who was traded north of the border last winter, was a big draw for Bassitt.
“I was under a lot of pressure to turn down the chance to play him again,” Bassitt said.
Just as appealing was joining a starting rotation that includes three other All-Star right-handers in Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and José Berríos.
“That’s one of the main reasons I came here,” Bassitt said. “I want to be part of a group for an extended period of time where we can really get to know each other, help each other be the best we can be, and then hopefully do something special at the end.”
Bassitt’s signing was confirmed a day after Toronto announced a one-year, $9 million contract with Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. Atkins acknowledged that the addition of Kiermaier will affect George Springer’s role in the outfield, with Springer likely to switch from center field to right field some or all of the time in 2023.
“I think Kevin understands what comes with a winning environment,” Atkins said. “George certainly understands what comes with a winning environment. Sometimes it means a different position, trade positions or shared positions. That’s one way to keep depth. They’re both open-minded. George has been absolutely on board with that.” .”
Having acquired pitchers Erik Swanson and Adam Macko from Seattle for outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, Atkins said his offseason priority will now shift from run prevention to added offense. He said he’d like to add one more position player, ideally a left-handed outfielder.
Toronto finished as the AL’s top wild card with a 92-70 record last season, but was swept out of the playoffs by visiting Seattle, blowing an 8-1 lead in Game 2 and losing 10-9.
Encouraged by what he’s seen and heard about the Blue Jays, Bassitt doesn’t expect another disappointment in October next season.
“I’m here to play and win a World Series,” he said. “It’s that simple. I think Toronto, with the pitching staff we have, the bats we have and the defense we can play, we have a complete package.”