A fan favorite from the 2019 Yankees will be suiting up out west in 2020, as the Yankees shipped DFA’d lefty Néstor Cortés Jr. to the Seattle Mariners for an undisclosed sum of international bonus money.
Cortés Jr. re-joined the Yankees in 2019 after a short stint with the Baltimore Orioles as a Rule 5 pick in 2018. He lasted just four relief outings with a 7.71 ERA in 4⅔ innings. He was offered back to the Yankees after clearing waivers and authored a 3.68 ERA in 24 games (18 starts) between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
His Yankees debut came May 11, with two innings of mop-up work against Tampa Bay. He would go on to make 33 appearances, working mainly as a “bulk” reliever behind an opener with one traditional start. His results weren’t exactly pretty, with a 5.67 ERA (5.57 FIP). He did manage to strike out 9.3 batters per nine despite a fastball velocity that ranked in just the ninth percentile. Cortés Jr. relied on 5 pitches: Four Seamer (46%), Slider (31.2%), Changeup (12.3%), Sinker (6.2%), Curve (4.2%).
Cortés Jr. figures to get a look in the Mariners rotation next year, though he could also slot in behind an opener or as a long reliever. Of course, he played all three of those roles in the Bronx as well. He’ll come with two minor-league options, two seasons of pre-arbitration control and will be controllable through arbitration until 2025.
From the Yankees standpoint, Cortés Jr. was expendable since they have multiple controllable arms able to fill the up-and-down role in 2020. Albert Abreu, Deivi García and Mike King join Chance Adams, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder and Jonathan Loáisiga as the shuttle group. A few of those arms likely have a future in the Yankees rotation, and that caused the Yankees to cut Cortés Jr. loose.
Plus, the Yankees always love to accumulate their international bonus money. A team can trade for up to 60% of their originally allotted bonus pool, which comes in handy when the team gave out $5.1 million (most of the original pool) to 16-year-old stud Jasson Dominguez.