The New York Mets were the first Major League team to swoop in and take advantage of the Oakland Athletics tear down by obtaining Chris Bassitt for J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller. It was a very strong move for the Mets with Bassitt being a terrific fit for the Mets rotation.
What is interesting with Bassitt is just how overlooked he is. Since 2018, he has a 3.23 ERA, 1.141 WHIP, and a 129 ERA+. His ERA is 17th best in the majors over that time frame. His 4.37 FIP ranks 43rd. His 3.22 K/BB ranks 56th. His 32.78% hard hit rate is good for 30th in the majors.
Going to Baseball Savant, Bassitt is among the best in the majors in limiting hard contact despite not having elite velocity or spin. As noted by Owen McGrattan of Fangraphs, Bassitt does this by how he mixes up his pitches as well as his release points. The overall result is his taking average stuff and having it play as a top of the rotation type of pitcher.
While that may sound a bit incredulous by the aforementioned numbers, keep in mind there are 30 teams in the majors. If you are in the top 60 in any category, you’re pitching at the level of a 1-2 starter. That’s where Bassitt has been. He’s pitching like a number two starter in terms of results. We can dicker about his stuff and natural ability, but the end result is Bassitt pitches like a two starter.
Of course, with the Mets, he’s nowhere near that. He’s a very large step behind Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer because the vast majority of starting pitchers are. There’s not shame in that whatsoever. When healthy, you can argue Carlos Carrasco is one of the best pitchers in baseball. After all, Carrasco was coming off a 153 ERA+ before he was traded to the Mets.
That’s just the thing., Carrasco had an injury riddled season. In each of the last two seasons, deGrom has been nicked up. Taijuan Walker has a lengthy injury history. Scherzer has had good health in his career, but he is also 37. Looking at the Mets rotation, it is both deep and questionable in terms of the ability to get 30 starts from everyone.
It is one thing to have Tylor Megill and David Peterson ready to step into the rotation. That is admirable depth, and it’s all the more admirable with Trevor Williams and Jordan Yamamoto in the mix. However, those are back end of the rotation type of guys. They are not pitchers who can reasonably replicate a top of the rotation starter.
That’s what makes Bassitt so important. By performance, he’s a two starter. However, in this rotation, he’s a number three, and you could argue he’s the fourth starter. When and if an injury occurs, the need to replace a top of the rotation isn’t that much of a concern because the middle to back end of the rotation pitchers on this team are really top to middle pitchers.
The Bassitt acquisition makes this rotation even deeper than it was, and arguably, it makes the Mets rotation the deepest in baseball. When all five of these starters are pitching on the top of their game, something that Jeremy Hefner has helped them do, there is no rotation better in baseball. That’s just how much Bassitt means to this team.
With the collective bargaining agreement stalemate, and Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the first two series of the Major League season will be canceled, minor league baseball appears to be set to be the only baseball left to be played. This was the case on August 12, 1994 until the end of that season, and right now, we don’t know how long it will be until MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement.
This begs the question about how this will affect the minor league season. In many ways, the answer is not at all, but in a more global sense, it is a huge impact due to all of the uncertainty.
40 Man Roster Issues
First and foremost, this lockout impacts players on the 40 man roster. Keep in mind with Major League rosters being capped at 26 players, the 14 players who were supposed to play in the minors are now not permitted to play with their respective organizations.
This past offseason, the New York Mets added Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, Adam Oller, and Jose Butto to their 40 man roster. They’re now not eligible to play in games or participate in Spring Training. The same goes for players like Travis Blankenhorn, Khalil Lee, Patrick Mazeika, and Nick Plummer who were likely ticketed for Triple-A to start the season.
Spring Training Battles
If we look back to the pandemic shortened season of 2020, MLB had a very abbreviated “Summer Camp” with players reporting on July 1 and beginning the season on July 24. In 1995, the strike and lockout meant Spring Training was delayed. When the two sides finally agreed to a deal, Spring Training was just three weeks. We’re very likely to see something akin to that again.
As a result, we are not going to have the opportunity to see Spring Training battles breath. At least at the moment, Tylor Megill and David Peterson appear poised to battle for the fifth starter spot. With no real Spring Training, and both pitchers being shut down because they are on the 40 man roster, it would appear the Mets would be all the more emboldened to sign another starter.
Speaking of Spring Training battles, there are those veterans who signed minor league deals. For example, this offseason the Mets signed Daniel Palka who has played 154 Major League games in his career and Matt Reynolds who has played 130 games. They would be permitted to play in Spring Training, where they would not be paid, and they can then report to play in Triple-A Syracuse regardless of the status of the CBA negotiations.
Rule 5 Draft
As noted, players not on the 40 man roster are permitted to participate in Spring Training, and they can begin their minor league seasons when they are slated to begin. That is an enormous benefit for players like Carlos Cortes, Brian Metoyer, and Hayden Senger. Each of these players were on the bubble for Rule 5 protection, and the Mets opted to expose them to the draft.
This means Cortes, Metoyer, and Senger will get to play and improve. That will also give teams an opportunity to get a better look at those three players in determining whether they should be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, that also works in the inverse with the Mets getting a deeper look into players they might be targeting.
Keep in mind, there isn’t much precedent here for this. In 1994, because there was a strike but not a lockout, teams were able to proceed with their business as usual and hold the Rule 5 draft in December (even if it was delayed twice). For the 2020 season, the Rule 5 draft had already taken place in December 2019 because COVID-19 was not yet a concern.
Another important note here is as MLB cancels games, it becomes easier to carry Rule 5 drafted players. As a result, the risk in selecting a Rule 5 player has been greatly mitigated. Another factor at play here is we may see players get drafted based on early season results who may not have been otherwise considered. To sum up, this is a quagmire.
At the moment, the Mets have their minor league mini-camp. Minor League Spring Training is also set to officially begin this week. As of right now, according to their official schedule, the Mets are slated to play their first Spring Training game on March 12 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, games were supposed to begin February 28, but it was delayed due to the lockout. As of right now, there is no official word if games will be delayed further. That said, there will likely be some form of a Spring Training game schedule even absent a CBA being in place to allow the minor leaguers to prepare for their season. The season for the Mets full season affiliates are set to begin as follows:
- Syracuse Mets – April 5
- Binghamton Rumble Ponies – April 8
- Brooklyn Cyclones – April 8
- St. Lucie Mets – April 8
For those Mets fans who want to attend a baseball game, the Brooklyn Cyclones home opener will be on April 12 at 7:00 P.M. against the Jersey Shore Blue Claws (Phillies).
Right now, the Mets are paying Buck Showalter a lot of money to manage a team which is not set to play. That leaves Showalter with the job of preparing to prepare for the season. In some ways, that’s extremely beneficial for the new staff with new coaches like Eric Chavez to come to work together.
It also gives them an opportunity to work with the minor leaguers in Spring Training, and perhaps, depending on the length of the lockout, to travel to work with some of the minor leaguers. This presents an enormous opportunity for players like Brett Baty, who is battling with Vientos for that future third base job. More than that, it allows some of the more unheralded prospects like a Harol Gonzalez to make an impression in camp and get an advocate from the Major League coaching staff in their corner.
That just speaks to just how different everything will be for minor leaugers. Yes, the players not on the 40 man roster will have no change to their schedule. They will report to Spring Training at the same time, and they will play the games like they normally do.
However, they will also get more exposure to Major League coaching, and they have more of an opportunity to distinguish themselves. Moreover, they will get to prepare for their season and work on their games while fellow minor leaugers who are on the 40 man roster will be at home unpaid and without a chance to work with their coaches to improve their game.