The Los Angeles Angels have a gaping hole in their starting rotation. There's Shohei Ohtani at the top, and he's obviously among the best. Then there are the young starting pitchers in Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, and Jose Suarez. The fifth starter is wide-open. Do you really trust one of Touki Toussaint or Tucker Davidson to take that job? I sure don't.
The Angels should look into free agency for the fifth starter. They can sign an ace, but I wouldn't recommend that. They can sign a cheap option to round out the rotation, but I think the Angels need a little more than that as well.
I believe the Angels should sign someone like Chris Bassitt to plug in right behind Ohtani in the 2023 rotation.
Chris Bassitt gives the Angels a sense of stability in their rotation that they have been lacking.
Chris Bassitt has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the last three seasons. His 3.13 ERA since 2020 ranks ninth in all of baseball among qualifiers. Right off the bat, he gives the Angels someone who can take the ball every fifth or sixth day and give them a chance to win.
Bassitt broke out in the shortened 2020 season, posting a 2.29 ERA in 11 starts. He then followed that up by going 12-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 27 starts in 2021. If he wasn't hit in the face with a line drive he would've finished higher than tenth in the AL Cy Young balloting.
In the 2021 offseason, he was traded to the Mets. This past season he went 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA. He doesn't walk too many (2.4 BB/9) and doesn't allow many home runs (0.9 HR/9).
He doesn't have the stuff that Ohtani or other high-end starters have, but his variety of pitches makes him incredibly tough to square up. Bassitt ranked in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity and the 87th percentile in hard-hit rate according to baseball savant. He throws six different pitches at least 6% of the time which makes him very hard to predict. The strikeouts might not be super high, but he's very effective.
What I like most about Bassitt is his consistency. He takes the ball when asked and pretty much always gives his team a chance to win.
Bassitt went at least six innings in 23 of his 30 starts. He had two additional starts where he was one out shy of completing six innings. For comparison, Shohei Ohtani went at least six innings just 18 times in his 28 starts. The likely AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander did it in 22 of his 28 starts.
Bassitt allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of his 30 starts. Ohtani did that 24 times and Verlander did that 26 times. Bassitt isn't quite on their level, but he's pretty close.
After the departure of hitting coach Jeremy Reed and hopeful healthy seasons out of guys like Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Taylor Ward, and Jared Walsh, I expect the Angels to have a better offense. It'd help a lot if they had even better starting pitching so they can win even more games.
If money was unlimited I'd say go after someone like Jacob deGrom or Carlos Rodon, but it's not. A Chris Bassitt contract will be affordable and more importantly, the Angels will know exactly what they're getting. They're not getting a guy who will blow you away with 100 mph fastballs. They're getting a gamer who will give them a chance to win just about every time out.
Bassitt will be 34 years old by the time Opening Day comes around. He has a $19 million dollar mutual option that I'm sure the Mets accept but he declines. The Angels can give him a multi-year deal at around that AAV and I'm sure they'll have a great shot at landing him. The Mets have to worry about bringing deGrom and many other key pieces back. The Angels have a shot at landing a legit number two to pitch right after Ohtani.