Bergen, 28, posted a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays this past season, though he did so while walking more batters (eight) than he struck out (six). Bergen has seen time in the Majors in each of the past three seasons, totaling 38 2/3 innings of 3.96 ERA ball with a 21% strikeout rate but a 15.6% walk rate that’ll need to be improved upon if he’s to ultimately find some sustainable success in the Majors.
While Bergen has a shaky walk rate in the big leagues, command hasn’t been as much of a problem in the minors. In parts of six minor league campaigns, the southpaw has punched out an impressive 31.1% of his opponents against a much more palatable (albeit still higher than average) 9.6% walk rate. Bergen logged a 3.18 ERA in 22 2/3 innings with the Jays’ top minor league affiliate last year and, in a total of 129 1/3 minor league innings, he sports an excellent 1.95 ERA.
The larger problem for Bergen has simply been one of staying on the field. Despite being a 2015 draftee, he has just 168 professional innings between the big leagues and minors combined. Bergen suffered an elbow injury early in 2016 that eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery. He pitched just 23 1/3 innings between 2016-17 combined. Bergen returned with a terrific 2018 season in between Class-A Advanced and Double-A (0.95 ERA, 32% strikeout rate, 6.5% walk rate in 56 1/3 innings), which prompted the Giants to select him in the following year’s Rule 5 Draft.
As is often the case with Rule 5 relievers, Bergen was seldom used as the Giants tried to get through the season deploying him in low-leverage spots in an effort to retain his rights in future seasons. He tossed 19 2/3 innings in the Majors plus another 21 1/3 frames in the minors, where the Giants sent him for multiple rehab assignments while on the big league injured list. He made it two-thirds of the way through the big league season on the Giants’ roster before being returned to the Blue Jays.
In 2020, there was no minor league season, limiting Bergen to just 8 1/3 innings big league innings. Those came with the D-backs, who briefly acquired him in the trade that sent Robbie Ray from Arizona to Toronto. The Diamondbacks designated him for assignment the following spring and traded him back to Toronto for cash.
Assuming no further injuries pop up, Bergen will get his first crack at a healthy and (mostly) normal season since that 2018 campaign in the Jays’ system. The Padres are a sensible club to take a chance on his strikeout potential; Drew Pomeranz is on the mend from flexor surgery, leaving Tim Hill as the only lefty who’s currently assured a spot in new manager Bob Melvin’s bullpen.