Left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. is headed back to the Yankees organization, as the pitcher himself revealed last week on Instagram. The team hasn’t formally announced the move, which is surely a minor league pact. “I’m extremely excited to announce I will be a Yankee again,” Cortes wrote. “I’m truly lucky to have this opportunity. It’s time to work to get up there.”
Cortes, who recently turned 26, was a 36th-round pick by the Yankees back in 2013 and has spent parts of the past three seasons in the big leagues. The Orioles selected him in the Rule 5 Draft back in 2017 and gave him his big league debut during the 2018 season. However, the O’s cut him loose after just 4 2/3 frames and returned him to the Yankees.
In 2019, Cortes made his Yankees debut, appearing in 33 Major League games but struggling to the tune of a 5.67 ERA and 5.57 FIP. He averaged better than a strikeout per inning (9.3 K/9) but was too prone to walks (3.8 BB/9) and especially to home runs (2.2 HR/9) to have much success. It was more of the same with the Mariners in 2020, when Cortes was tagged 13 earned runs and a staggering six home runs in just 7 2/3 innings.
All in all, Cortes has a grisly 6.72 ERA in 79 Major League frames, but he’s been excellent in Triple-A, with a 3.11 ERA and a 199-to-62 K/BB ratio in 205 1/3 innings. He’s been sharp thus far in the Dominican Winter League as well, holding opponents to five runs on 11 hits and five walks with 21 strikeouts through 15 2/3 innings.
Big league struggles notwithstanding, three different big league teams have been intrigued enough by Cortes and his potential to give him a look over the past three seasons. He’ll surely have to earn his way onto the roster with a big spring showing or perhaps some early success in Triple-A, but the Yankees are in need of pitching depth and Cortes provides that both in the rotation and the bullpen.