If you needed more evidence that the middle tier of starting pitchers is experiencing inflation due to the huge demands at the top, consider that the Mets may be getting priced out of the market. Granted, that’s because they plan to add either Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodón, but the fact that they may not be willing to meet the demands for someone from the second group tells you the asks are greater than expected.
As we noted last week, that’s going to impact the Cubs as they seek to balance impact with cost to whatever extent that’s possible. They’ve been mentioned in connection with pretty much every pitcher from that second tier since no one believes Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins will spend big on an ace. That leaves Chris Bassitt as perhaps the top target out of a group of solid starters who project as being Nos. 2-3 in a good rotation.
Bassitt, however, is reportedly seeking at least four years on a new deal that will start in his age-34 season. He also turned down the Mets’ qualifying offer and will cost a draft pick and international pool money for the team that signs him. But his asking price alone might be too steep for the free-spending Mets, the only team that wouldn’t face penalties for signing him.
Chris Bassitt has been seeking a contract of longer than three years. It doesn’t sound like the Mets are enthusiastic about going four or five years on Bassitt, who turns 34 in February.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) December 4, 2022
The Mets may likewise be outbid for former Yankee Jameson Taillon, at whom SNY’s Andy Martino reports they “made a serious run…late last week.” It seems as though their preliminary offer was more about trying to get Taillon to bite early because Martino added that “it’s easy to see another team offering more” with the Mets prioritizing Verlander.
It makes sense that any team legitimately pursuing one of the top two remaining starters would prefer to consummate the bigger deal first, but that doesn’t seem to be hurting the next tier. Bassitt, Taillon, Taijuan Walker, and Nathan Eovaldi should end up making out just fine and can probably even take advantage of their more highly coveted peers to squeeze a few million dollars more from their new teams.
You have to wonder, then, whether the Cubs would still be interested if prices rise even a little bit. Though paying a premium for pitching is nothing new, it’s understandable for any team to become a little more price-sensitive when evaluating the wisdom of a deal for a starter who isn’t really viewed as a difference maker. And when that team is starting to see the results of a revamped pitching development infrastructure, it’s also important to avoid deals that could sour well before their scheduled expiry.
That’s why Koudai Senga still strikes me as making the most sense by far if we include him alongside the aforementioned quartet. The inherent risk of any pitching acquisition goes up with cost, particularly when there’s limited upside to mitigate it, so overpaying for mid-rotation arms can get pretty tricky. Hence my repeated call to either go hard after Senga or pivot to the next tier of low-cost/high-risk pitchers.
Whichever direction they choose to take, I feel like the Cubs really want to make a move during the Winter Meetings to help give shape to what has thus far been — at least publicly — an amorphous offseason.