One of the biggest strengths last season for the Seattle Mariners was their strong starting rotation. In the second half, they had a solid 4 in their rotation with Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby. They also had 2 solid back-end starters in Chris Flexen and Marco Gonzales. Some are now questioning if the M’s need to go out and add another starter, to replace those two, and that is why Chris Bassitt is a great fit for the #5 starter role in Seattle.
Everyone knows that the measuring stick for the Mariners is the Houston Astros. Looking at the Mariners starting pitching WAR compared to that of the Astros, the World Series champs were about twice as good as the M’s in both the entire season and in the second half as well. The Mariners should not go into 2023 with the plan being to give Gonzales or Flexen a full season’s worth of starts. They need a better pitcher who is more reliable and has more upside.
Chris Bassitt is just that and could be the answer for the Mariners.
Chris Bassitt is a very good starting pitcher. He is not elite, but there will be plenty of games where he goes 7 innings and gives up one run. He averaged just over 6 innings a start in 2022, meaning that he easily does what Gonzales and Flexen do at their best. If those two go 5 innings and give up one run, Mariners fans are happy. It would be expected that Bassitt would go out there again for the 6th inning because he is an upgrade.
In 2022, Flexen was worth 0.7 WAR and Gonzales were worth 0.1 WAR according to Fangraphs. At the same time, Bassitt was worth 2.7. That is a significant difference, and having 5 starters who are 2.5 WAR or better would be a way to have a competitive advantage for the Mariners over most teams, and close the gap with Houston.
Going into a season with Chris Bassitt as the 5th starter would be a huge step up from where the M’s were to start in 2022. They had Gonzales and Flexen in their rotation, and having Bassitt who was tied for 30th in all of baseball in starting pitching WAR in 2022 would give them the best rotation in all of MLB. The Mariners would be able to challenge the Astros with a rotation of Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Ray, and Bassitt. That would close the gap big time.
A big reason that Bassitt is so solid is because of his consistency. He has been worth 2+ WAR every year since 2019 with the exception of 2020 where he was worth 1.3 in less than half a year, meaning that he would have been worth close to 3 WAR in a full season. He has also made no fewer than 25 starts with the exception of the shortened season again.
Another reason the 33-year-old will continue to be consistent is that he does not rely on velocity or getting swings and misses. The 6’5″ righty has a 6-pitch mix that gets him nearly half of his outs via the ground ball. He also gets more fly ball outs than normal, and he allows 7% fewer line drives than average. He will continue to get guys out, and having a good defense in Seattle will be a big piece of his success going forward.
So, how much should the Mariners pay him? I think a one-year deal would be ideal because it would not lock up a rotation spot for the long term, and it would give them the opportunity to sign him again next year or offer him the qualifying offer. Reports have him looking for a three-year deal, somewhere in the $17-20 per year range as an AAV.
I think a three-year deal would be the max the Mariners should go, but I would prefer a 2 year deal for $30-40 million total.
He will probably have a good market, so Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander may have to go for 3 years.