Ortega, 32, was non-tendered by the Cubs at the end of last year and has since bounced around to various non-roster opportunities. He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees in January but requested and was granted a release when he was informed he wouldn’t make the club out of Spring Training. He quickly landed another minor league deal with the Rangers but was granted his released from that club just over a week ago. Before his release, he was hitting .226/.333/.381 through 199 plate appearances in Triple-A.
Prior to this nomadic year, Ortega had a solid two-year run with the Cubs in 2021 and 2022. He got into 221 games in those seasons and made 701 trips to the plate. He hit 18 home runs and walked at an above-average 10.6% clip. His combined .265/.344/.408 batting line amounted to a wRC+ of 108, indicating he was 8% above league average. He spent most of his time in center field, where his work was graded as just a bit below average.
Given the difficulty in finding capable center fielders who can also hold their own at the plate, that was a valuable performance. Ortega earned a combined 2.2 wins above replacement from FanGraphs over those seasons and 2.3 from Baseball Reference. Nonetheless, the Cubs decided to cut him loose rather than pay a projected arbitration salary of $1.7MM for 2023.
The Mets have a regular outfield of Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha and Starling Marte, with Tommy Pham also in the mix. The recent injury to Pete Alonso has seen Canha spent a bit of time at first base, however, thrusting Pham into a more regular role. The designated hitter slot is also fairly up for grabs thanks to the struggles of Daniel Vogelbach, who is hitting .203/.343/.297 for the year. He hasn’t appeared in a game in over a week and Mike Puma of the New York Post recently relayed that Vogelbach is getting a mental break as the club tries to figure out how to get him back on track.
Given those factors, perhaps there’s a path for Ortega to earn his way into a reserve outfield role with the club. If he is able to get onto the roster, he is out of options but could be retained for future seasons since he currently has under three years of major league service time.