M’s Non-Tender Dan Cortes and Chris Gimenez
Last night, the Mariners opened up two spots on the 40 man roster by declining to tender contracts to either Dan Cortes or Chris Gimenez. This was not a cost-savings maneuver, as neither were arbitration eligible and the team could have simply renewed their contracts at the league minimum for 2012. This was the team deciding that they’d rather have the open 40-man spots and determining that neither was worth a Major League contract for next year.
With Gimenez, that’s par for the course. He’s a replacement level catcher who has bounced between Triple-A and the Majors for most of his career. He’s the definition of freely available talent, and there’s no reason to use any resources to retain him. Cortes, though, is a young live arm, and those don’t really grow on trees. That the organization was willing to cut him loose despite his velocity and youth should tell you just how bad he was last year.
His command was bad, but that’s always been true, even when the Mariners plucked him out of the Royals system in the Yuniesky Betancourt deal. Hard throwers often struggle to find the zone, and some of them are able to succeed in spite of lingering problems throwing strikes, so the walks weren’t the reason Cortes was cut loose.
No, that would be the inexplicable fact that he was remarkably hittable in the big leagues. We’re dealing with a small sample since he only threw 191 pitches in the Majors last year, but of those 191 pitches, he only got 11 swinging strikes. Opposing batters swung and missed at Cortes’ stuff at the same rate (5.8%) as they did with Aaron Laffey and Blake Beaven. Even Anthony Vazquez generated more swinging strikes than Cortes did.
He threw hard, but he threw straight and in lousy locations, so opposing hitters simply had the option of watching a pitch soar out of the zone or taking a good solid swing at a hittable fastball. Cortes didn’t fool anyone, or show anything that resembled a Major League quality pitch. Cortes was the walking embodiment of why there’s more to pitching than straight up velocity.
That velocity will allow him to catch on with another team, and who knows, maybe he’ll harness his stuff one day and turn into a decent reliever. But, if you want to stay on the 40 man roster, you need to show some reason for hope, and just throwing hard isn’t enough. It’s pretty telling that the organization chose to keep Steve Delabar around and not Cortes, even though the skillset is similar. In his brief tryout, Delabar showed that he could get hitters to swing through his fastball. That’s a good place to start, and until Cortes starts throwing his fastball by Major League hitters, he won’t be of much use.