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Posted at 12:55 PM ET, 01/17/2011

Nationals, Alex Cora agree to minor league contract

By Adam Kilgore

The Nationals have reached an agreement on a minor league contract with veteran infielder Alex Cora, according to a source. The deal is worth $900,000, plus $600,000 in performance bonuses. The move gives the Nationals a leading candidate for the final spot on their bench and provides potential insurance for rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Cora, 35, appeared in 66 games with the New York Mets last season before they released him. He also played four games in a brief stint with the Texas Rangers. Known as a reliable fielder and positive clubhouse presence, Cora hit .210/.266/.278 (average/on-base/slugging) in 194 plate appearances.

Cora, a Puerto Rico native, made his major league debut in 1998 and has spent most of his career with the Dodgers and Red Sox. He has been primarily a bench player, having last appeared in at least 100 games in 2005. The Nationals made it a priority to add bench players who would embrace the role.

The Nationals had been searching for one more player to fill out their bench. Cora will compete with pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, who also signed a minor-league deal this winter, to make the team in spring training and earn the final bench spot.

Cora's position will likely give him an advantage. The Nationals are planning on entering the season with Espinosa as their starting second baseman. Espinosa, though, is a rookie whose first major league experience came a call-up last September. Though the Nationals expect him to be fully healed by the start of spring training, Espinosa's transition will not be helped by the hand surgery he underwent this winter.

When his deal becomes official, Cora will become the ninth client of superagent Scott Boras on the Nationals' roster. He'll join Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Rick Ankiel, Ivan Rodriguez, Danny Espinoa, Jesus Flores and Alberto Gonzalez.

The Nationals' interest in Cora was first reported by MLB.com.

By Adam Kilgore  | January 17, 2011; 12:55 PM ET
 
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Comments

Nats/Mets swap bench players.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | January 17, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Guess the Mets and Nats are hoping that a change of scenery will do them well. I guess at this point the hope is someone else steps up and wins the job from him in ST.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | January 17, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

From my understanding Willie Harris has a lot more power. Is Cora THAT much better defensively? Harris could also be used in pinch running situations, can Cora run?

Posted by: NatsandSkinsareclassclassclass | January 17, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Cora is the infield version of Willie Harris (a back up player who bats leftie), but worse. Cora has been a below-replacement defender for the past several years, significantly worse at his positions than Willie is at his. And Cora's 2010 OPS was .544, vs. 653 for Willie.

Ouch.

Posted by: HHover | January 17, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Again, waiting to see players dropped from the 40 man

Posted by: SCNatsFan | January 17, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Boras Corp. actually got a $900k+ contract for Cora through a minor-league NRI deal? WOW! He really is the ultimate con-man / puppet-master / devil incarante (pick one).

This is not a good thing, boys & girls; It has the same stench about it that Alex Taveras had last spring. Somebody that plays well enough in Viera to make the roster, then goes straight in the tank. Me no likey.

Posted by: BinM | January 17, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Trade Rumors reporting the Nationals have acquired SP Tom Gorzelanny from the Cubs for 2 pitching prospects and an outfielder prospect.

Posted by: NatsFly | January 17, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Gorzelanny was solid last year. Hopefully it carries over...

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | January 17, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Guessing the Mets signed Willie Harris just so he'd stop killing them all the time. I wish that guy the best, it seems like he likes the NY stage.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | January 17, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Other then the fact that he hits from the left side, how is Cora any better or different then Alberto Gonzalez? Do we really need 2 backup infielders that can't hit on the 25 man roster? Probably not...

If it is for organizational depth, great... if they plan on having Gonzalez and Cora on the 25 man roster at the same time, ugh...

Posted by: Ghost7 | January 17, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

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