While lots of the early free-agent fodder around the Cubs has been centered on the shortstops, we know that they need to add a few starting pitchers this offseason. We’ve seen them linked to Japanese righty Kodai Senga, but that’s been the only big name attached to the Cubs on the pitching market until now.
According to Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma in The Athletic, the Cubs are interested in Mets’ free agent pitchers Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker.
Via The Athletic.
The Cubs continue to be active in the free-agent market for starting pitchers, a group that includes Kodai Senga, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker on their radar.
Here’s a quick comparison between Bassitt and Walker, who both pitched for the Mets in 2022.
|Chris Bassitt||Taijuan Walker|
|34-years-old (in 2023)||30-years-old|
|3.45 ERA||3.89 ERA|
|3.81 FIP||4.19 FIP|
|4.23 xFIP||4.19 xFIP|
|8.19 K/9||8.08 K/9|
|2.78 BB/9||2.85 BB/9|
|1.20 WHIP||1.23 WHIP|
|21.7 K%||21.4 K%|
|7.4 BB%||7.5 BB%|
|44.2 GB%||43.6 GB%|
In 2022, Bassitt had a 3.42 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and struck out 167 batters in 181.2 innings. Meanwhile, Walker had a 3.49 ERA ERA, 1.19 WHIP and he struck out 132 batters in 157.1 innings. Similar numbers across the board for both right-handers, not just in 2022, but throughout their careers as well. You also have to like that since the shortened 2020 season, both Bassitt and Walker have stayed healthy, ranking in the top-25 in both starts made and innings pitched.
There are two obvious differences, though, as Bassitt is 3.5 years older than Walker. Also, the Mets extended the qualifying offer to Bassitt, who declined it, meaning if the Cubs do sign him, then they’ll have to give up a draft pick and bonus pool money. However, Walker opted out of his 2023 player option with the Mets that was worth $6 million and does not have the qualifying offer attached to him.
Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker Contract Projections
Fangraphs: 3 years, ~$50 million
MLBTR: 3 years, $60 million
ESPN: 3 years, $53 million
Fangraphs: 3 years, ~$40 million
MLBTR: 4 years, $52 million
ESPN: 4 years, $60 million
Given the age and qualifying offer attached to Bassitt, I’d strongly lean toward the Cubs signing Walker out of the two pitchers.
Again, it’s important to point out, though, that the Cubs need starting pitching and reliable starting pitching, so even if they did sign one of these two free agents, you really should want them to sign another one like Senga or aim higher like Carlos Rodón.