To Keep or Not to Keep: Nestor Cortes Jr.
by Ethan Semendinger
July 6th, 2021
Over the next month as we begin to approach the 2021 Trade Deadline season, Ethan will be taking you through most of the Yankees MLB talent (including those on the IL) and his give opinions on what he would do if he ran the team and on what the Yankees will likely do.
Today we’ll be discussing Nestor Cortes Jr.
MLB Postseason/Division/WS Odds for the New York Yankees (2021): Preseason: Fangraphs – 91.3%/71.0%/17.5% BBRef – 84.0%/63.1%/11.8% 538 – 83%/60%/14% On June 14th: Fangraphs – 44.5%/14.4%/5.7% BBRef – 19.3%/0.9%/0.8% 538 – 37%/8%/3%#Yankees #StartSpreadingtheNews — Start Spreading The News (@NYY_Report) June 14, 2021
Understanding This Series:
At the beginning of this series, the Yankees currently sit with a 33-32 record, are 4th in the AL East (8.5 GB of the Rays), and are 6th in the AL Wild Card race (4 GB of the Astros). If they want to win 93 games this season (what they’d likely need for a wild card spot) they’ll have to play .618 baseball, a winning percentage of which just 2 teams (Rays and White Sox) are currently playing at. In this series we’re not believing that the Yankees, under their current roster construction and self-inflicted restrictions, have a shot at the playoffs. Thus, we’re looking at the 2021 Trade Deadline as a place to sell and to look towards 2022 and the future for this team.
Nestor Cortes Background:
Nestor Cortes this past Sunday was the spot starter for the New York Yankees, doing a solid job in the 2nd game of a July 4th doubleheader against the New York Mets. He went 3.1 innings to just 1 run, 2 hits, allowed 0 walks, and recorded 4 strikeouts. This was his 3rd start with the Yankees in his 3rd different stint within the organization.
Originally coming to the Yankees as a draft pick in the 36th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Cortes would slowly move up the minor leagues though he was never considered a top prospect. Ultimately he was grabbed as a Rule 5 pick by the Baltimore Orioles before the 2018 season, though after 4.1 innings (at a 7.72 ERA) he was returned to the Yankees and their minor league system in mid-April.
Cortes would find a more solidified role in 2019 while pitching 100 innings as a spot starter in Triple-A and a long-reliever in the MLB for the Yankees. Though, with a 5.67 ERA over 66.7 innings in the MLB he would ultimately be moved on from again in a trade with the Seattle Mariners before the 2020 season.
Though, for the Mariners Cortes supplied them a 15.26 ERA over 7.2 innings as his season was cut short due to a left shoulder impingement. In October the Mariners would outright Cortes and he’d become a free agent before returning to the Yankees again in January, 2021.
Much like an Adam Warren “this guy can only pitch for the Yankees” situation, Cortes has such little MLB experience over a long period of time to really evaluate his stats. However, at his 26 years old and with arbitration set through the end of 2025, Cortes could have a lot of years in baseball remaining.
What I’d Do and What the Yankees Will Do:
If history can indicate anything, Cortes is going to be traded away from the Yankees to ultimately return within a year. Maybe he’s a secret agent being paid by the Yankees to purposefully implode for other teams? Maybe Cortes has a “Popeye eating spinach” type reaction to wearing the NY on his chest. Whatever the case may be, his profile comes as a dime a dozen.
However, at just 26 years old and with loads of time under contract remaining, Cortes also has the time to make himself into a viable bullpen piece. The last few players we looked at in Chad Green and Luis Cessa had similar careers to Cortes in this regard: bouncing around the minors before finding comfort at the MLB level in the bullpen. It’s possible Cortes could do much of the same.
I’m not going to buy-in on Cortes being a 1.29 ERA relief pitcher after just 21.0 innings so far in 2021, but given how I think the Yankees should approach the trade deadline (SELL, DO NOT BUY) I’m in favor of keeping around the Nestor Cortes’ of the world to see if they have the stuff to be a cheap and solid reliever for the future.
However, this will only happen if Cortes can maintain his performance so far in 2021. It’s a break of his norms thus far (maybe the moustache is magical?) so I’m expecting regression- and ultimately demotion- from the Yankees brass when prospects may start to be worthy of an MLB spot and/or other pitchers under contract return.