Strictly speaking, it was possible the Chicago Cubs could bring back outfielder Rafael Ortega even after non-tendering him in the fall. Had they wanted him back on a minor league deal as outfield depth, and had he seen a good path to playing time, it was conceivable.
But with more minor league talent moving up closer to the big leagues, with Cody Bellinger coming into take over full-time center field duties, and with Nelson Velazquez and Ben DeLuzio (at least) ahead of him on the outfield bench depth chart (to say nothing of the utility guys who can move out to the outfield if necessary), I think Ortega probably saw the writing on the wall. It wasn’t going to be his best bet.
So I say good for him, finding a minor league deal in the same place fellow outgoing outfielder Michael Hermosillo did: the New York Yankees.
Ortega, 31, was a long-time fringe big leaguer, bouncing between Triple-A and MLB for nearly a decade before he got more consistent run with the Cubs the last two years. In that time, he hit .265/.344/.408/108 wRC+ over 701 PAs, and generally showed himself to be a capable big league bat against righties (I could see him hitting some dingers at Yankee Stadium with that short porch in right). Defensively, he’s passable all over the outfield, too. Nice guy to have around on a minor league deal, and I’d be surprised if the Yankees didn’t bring him up at some point. (Just don’t let him run the bases too much.)
All the best to Ortega with the Yankees. Appreciate his grind.
As for the Cubs, their group of outfielders – big leagues and plausible minor league options – include Bellinger, Velazquez, DeLuzio, Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, Christopher Morel, Zach McKinstry, Miles Mastrobuoni, Brennen Davis, and Darius Hill (and Alexander Canario possibly in the second half after he recovers from ankle and shoulder surgery, but I wouldn’t count on him).