TORONTO — Chris Bassitt didn’t need the Toronto Blue Jays to sell him on what they were building. The All-Star right-hander already had done his research and decided which teams he was willing to engage in free agency.
« I kind of stopped everyone, » Bassitt said on a video call Monday of the suitors he spoke with. « I don’t need to be sold. Like, ‘if I’m talking to you, I want to be there’ kind of thing, and I definitely wanted to be in Toronto. I knew the players; I understood the living situation . I love the city. I’m 3½ hours from my family in Ohio. I’ve got all the boxes checked, so you don’t need to add to anything. »
Toronto showed serious interest from the start of the process, Bassitt said, and kept in touch as he considered his options. The team finalized a $63 million, three-year deal Friday.
« Really excited about the person, the teammate, » Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said of Bassitt during a video news conference Monday. « The competitiveness has always stood out to us as being elite. »
Bassitt, 33, hit 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’s 46-34 with a 3.45 ERA in eight major league seasons.
« The arsenal is unique in that it is so dynamic, » Atkins said. « There aren’t too many pitchers who can say concretely that they have seven weapons, if not more. Someone who is so aggressive with so many weapons is not fun to hit against. »
Bassitt gets a $3 million signing bonus, payable within 30 days of approval of the contract by the commissioner’s office, and salaries of $18 million next year and $21 million each in 2024 and 2025.
Bassitt would get a $150,000 bonus for winning a Cy Young Award, $125,000 for finishing second, $100,000 for third, $75,000 for fourth and $50,000 for fifth. He also would get $50,000 each for making the All-Star team, winning a Gold Glove or earning World Series MVP, plus $25,000 for being league championship series MVP.
As part of his research on Toronto, Bassitt sounded out 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 pretty hard pressed to turn down the opportunity to play with him again, » Bassitt said.
Equally attractive was joining a starting rotation that includes three other All-Star righties: Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman and Jose Berríos.
« That’s one of the biggest reasons why I came, » Bassitt said. « I want to be a 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 that we possibly can and then hopefully do something special in the very end. »
Bassitt’s signing was confirmed one day after Toronto announced a $9 million, one-year deal with Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. Atkins acknowledged that the addition of Kiermaier will impact George Springer’s outfield role, with Springer likely shifting from center 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, or trading positions, or sharing positions. That’s one way to keep depth. Both are open-minded to it. George has been absolutely on board with that. «
Having already 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 adding offense. He said he’d like to add one more position player, ideally a left-handed-hitting outfielder.
Toronto finished as the top AL wild card at 92-70 last season but was swept out of the playoffs by visiting Seattle, blowing an 8-1 lead in the second game and losing 10-9.
Encouraged by what he has seen and heard about the Blue Jays, Bassitt doesn’t expect another October disappointment next season.
« I’m here to play to win a World Series, » he said. « It’s that simple. 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. »