Nationals, Alex Cora agree to minor league contract

Adam Kilgore
Copyright 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011; 1:13 PM

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

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