Blue Jays: Rule 5 may cost Jordan Romano and Travis Bergen for good
As spring training begins to wind down, MLB teams across the league are beginning to finalize their Opening Day rosters. For the Toronto Blue Jays, this may mean that we may see former prospects Jordan Romano and Travis Bergen on opposing teams this season.
Before we get into the topic at hand, it may be helpful to really dive into how the Rule 5 Draft process works. Kaelen Jones of Sports Illustrated wrote a great article regarding the draft process. To summarize, teams draft a prospect who has enough eligible years of professional service time while also not being protected on the 40 man roster. This costs the ‘selecting’ team $100,000. If selected during the draft, that player must stay on the 25 man roster for the entire season or the ‘selecting’ team must send the player back to his original team for a return of $50,000. The Blue Jays have used this process multiple times before in the form of Kelly Gruber and Joe Biagini (to name a few).
On December 13, 2018, the Rule 5 Draft took place for the 2019 season. Draft rankings are determined by who had the worst league record during the prior season, meaning that the Baltimore Orioles would be picking 1st, with the Blue Jays picking 9th overall. With their pick, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Elvis Luciano from the Kansas City Royals, who at only 19 years old, is a unique acquisition given his age and experience.
During the Rule 5 Draft, the Blue Jays also lost two prospects: Jordan Romano and Travis Bergen.
Jordan Romano split his time between AA and AAA with the Toronto Blue Jays last season, pitching to a 4.11 ERA and winning 12 games across both leagues. Drafted in 2014, Romano spent the next few years climbing through the organization, with an unfortunate injury occurring in 2015 in the form of Tommy John surgery. He would end up finishing 2018 season in New Hampshire, making only one spot start for the AAA team in late May (he would win the game). While considered an upcoming prospect, he was left off the 40 man roster and was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the third pick of the Rule 5 Draft. After being selected, he was then flipped to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations.
Drafted in the 7th round in 2015, Travis Bergen finished the 2018 season with a combined 0.95 ERA across A and AA ball. Primarily used as a relief pitcher, Bergen does have experience in the closer role and saved seven games for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats last season. While he had a good season in the minors, he too was not protected on the 40 man roster and was picked up by the San Francisco Giants during the Rule 5 Draft.
This spring, both players have been quite impressive with their new ball clubs and have a legitimate shot at making their respective team’s active roster. Romano has pitched in 9.1 innings and has a 3.86 ERA while Bergen has been dominant, throwing a 0.00 ERA in 8.2 innings.
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The one blemish on Romano’s spring training line is that he only has six strikeouts compared to his five walks while working as a relief pitcher. While predominantly used as a starter in 2018, he has now transitioned into a new role while with the Rangers, and this will probably be his way onto the team. Truth be told, Romano really only had one bad spring training game and this inflated his stats.
Now while I am happy that Romano and Bergen are succeeding, it kind of hurts to know that with that success, we will probably not see these two players in a Blue Jays uniform again.
Per Joel Reuter of Bleacher Report, both players are playing on teams projected to be last place within their respected division. To drive the point home, both teams will play in Toronto this year and we could see these players play against the Jays at some point during those series.
Now as this article is being written, both players have not been notified as to whether or not they are making the team yet and should find out soon as Opening Day is roughly one week away. Even if they begin the season with the Rangers and Giants respectively, there still is a possibility that both players could be sent back to the Jays during the season, especially if they start to struggle on the big league stage.
While I truly do want them to succeed as professionals, I also hope that they get sent back to the Blue Jays. I believe Romano had an opportunity to compete for a Blue Jays bullpen position this spring if he had not been selected in the Rule 5 draft. If sent to the minors, Romano would join Bergen in either AA or AAA, and both players would be ready for a call from across the border if any relief pitcher went down with an injury.