Blue Jays: How they could still lose Elvis Luciano due to Rule 5 rules

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 09: Elvis Luciano #65 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Rogers Centre on June 9, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 09: Elvis Luciano #65 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Rogers Centre on June 9, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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The Blue Jays took Elvis Luciano from the Royals in last year’s Rule 5 draft, but they still need to pass one milestone in order to keep him.

When the Blue Jays decided to hang on to 19-year-old Elvis Luciano to open their 2019 season, I didn’t think it would last very long, even if the Dominican native has a lot of raw talent.

That’s because the Blue Jays had selected Luciano from the Kansas City Royals in last year’s Rule 5 draft, and there are some tricky stipulations that go with the rules of that game. In order to keep a player taken in that draft, the acquiring team must keep them on the active roster for the entire season. If they choose not to do that, they have to offer them back to their original team. In Luciano’s case, the Royals would have had the chance to purchase his contract back for $25,000 of the $50,000 the Blue Jays paid to acquire him.

There were some shaky times for the youngster on the mound, but he managed to hold his own just enough for the Blue Jays to keep him around, even if they tried to shield him from the more high-leverage situations. Still, in 20 appearances and 27.2 innings, he managed a 6.52 ERA and a 2.024 WHIP. Had it been any other reliever that wasn’t tied to the Rule 5 terms, they would have been shipped back to Buffalo much earlier, one would assume.

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In a bit of a fortunate break for the Blue Jays, Luciano had to hit the sidelines back on June 13th because of an elbow sprain, and we haven’t seen him on a big league mound since. He’s working toward a return now, and the Blue Jays hope they can activate him sometime in September. In fact, if they want to keep him around they’re going to have to.

One of the other stipulations in the Rule 5 draft is that the player has to be on the active roster for at least 90 days. Luciano wasn’t too far off before he hit the IL, but he’ll still need a few more weeks on the roster in order to reach 90 days, and by my count he should be at 75. If he can’t, it’s possible the Royals could take back their young pitching asset.

If the Blue Jays can get Luciano active long enough to hit that mark then can permanently add him to their organizational ranks without worrying about the Royals being able to take him back. In fact, they can send him to the minor leagues next year to properly continue his development, which will be good for him regardless of where he ends up pitching.

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When you consider that Jordan Romano was returned from the Texas Rangers, and Travis Bergen came back from the San Francisco Giants (both players were lost in last year’s Rule 5 draft), it’s all that more surprising that the younger Luciano may end up working out. That injury may have worked in the Blue Jays’ favour, as long as he can return in time to meet 90 days on the active roster.

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