The Blue Jays announced Tuesday that they’ve designated lefty Travis Bergen for assignment. Toronto needed to open a roster spot after this morning’s four-player trade, which sent righty Adam Cimber and outfielder Corey Dickerson from Miami to Toronto in exchange for infielder Joe Panik and minor league right-hander Andrew McInvale.
Bergen, 27, has a pristine 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings this year, but the rest of his numbers don’t paint as rosy a picture. He’s yielded five hits (one homer), walked eight batters and plunked another pair while recording just six strikeouts. Bergen has faced 46 hitters this season and walked or hit 22 percent of them.
This marks the third season in which the left-handed Bergen has logged some Major League time. He’s totaled 38 2/3 frames of MLB work and notched a solid-looking 3.96 ERA, but a 20.9 percent strikeout rate and sky-high 15.6 percent walk rate are both notable red flags.
To his credit, Bergen has been excellent in the minors — when he’s been healthy enough to take the mound. Despite being a 2015 draftee, he’s only totaled 109 1/3 innings of minor league ball. Bergen tossed just five innings after being drafted in 2015 and spent the rest of that season on the injured list. He then had Tommy John surgery in 2016, which limited him to five innings that season and 18 frames in his return effort in 2017.
Bergen worked a healthy and dominant season in 2018, logging 56 1/3 innings with a 0.95 ERA, a 32.0 percent strikeout rate and a 6.5 percent walk rate between the Jays’ Class-A Advanced and Double-A affiliates. Toronto still left him off the 40-man roster, and the Giants took him in that December’s Rule 5 Draft. Bergen’s Rule 5 status in 2019 further limited his innings, and San Francisco eventually returned him to the Jays in August — shortly before the minor league season ended.
There were, of course, no minor league games for Bergen to work in 2020. He spent the summer at the Jays’ alternate training site before being traded to Arizona in return for Robbie Ray. The D-backs designated him for assignment over the winter — the trade of Ray was more about dumping the remainder of his salary at a time when he was struggling badly and had little trade value — and the Jays reacquired him for cash.
The end result of all this is a pitcher who, despite being six-plus years removed from his draft date, has just 148 professional innings under his belt. Bergen has a 1.81 ERA and 31.1 percent strikeout rate in the minors, but he’s also set to turn 28 in October and has far less experience than most in his situation would. That said, based on the minor league numbers and the fact that he has multiple minor league options remaining, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another club take a chance on Bergen — even with the spotty command and lack of experience. The Jays will have a week to trade him or try to pass him through outright waivers.