WASHINGTON - JULY 03: Ian Desmond #6 of the Washington Nationals collides with Alex Cora #13 of the New York Mets at Nationals Park on July 3 2010 in Washington DC. Cora advanced to third base on the errant throw. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
MASNSports.com's Jen Royle reported via Twitter (@JenRoyleMASN) earlier this morning that the Washington Nationals were talking to veteran infielder Alex Cora. MLB.com's Bill Ladson (@Washingnats) confirmed as much shortly thereafter, and in the last half hour Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) confirmed the fact that the Nats and the 34-year-old 14-year veteran had agreed on a minor league deal that will pay the one-time Dodgers, RedSox, Mets, Indians and Rangers' infielder, "$900,000, plus $600,000 in performance bonuses." MLB.com's Peter Gammons reported on Twitter (@pgammo) that Cora was, "excited about his deal with Washington," and, "His leadership will be significant."
The Nationals have expressed interest in upgrading their bench all winter, with MLB.com's Mr. Ladson (@Washingnats) writing at one point that Miguel Cairo, Willie Bloomquist and Aaron Miles were on their radar. Late last week Jerry Hairston, Jr.'s name emerged as one of interest to the Nats, but Cora, who spent majority of the last two seasons in NY, where he put up a combined .234/.299/.298 slash line in 144 games and 440 at bats is the one that Washington signed to back up the Nats' infielders and come off the bench. Cora was worth -0.5 WAR in 62 games with New York and 4 with the Rangers last year, where he made one error at 2B, one at SS with a .994 combined fld% and a -1.4 UZR/150 at second where he spent the majority of his time.
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo reiterated this weekend that Washington's infield was set going into the season (barring, of course, any unforeseen developments) with Ryan Zimmerman at third, Ian Desmond at short, Danny Espinosa at second and Adam LaRoche at first. Espinosa's going to be given the same chance Desmond was last year to learn on the job according to the Nats' General Manager who told Federal Baseball.com this past weekend that there were no concerns about the 23-year-old infielder being ready for Spring Training in spite of the fact that he had surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone from his right hand this Winter:
"We expect him to be our Opening Day second baseman. He's a young player, but what he gives to us defensively range-wise, energy level, and speed on the bases, we can absorb a little bit of poor rookie at bats, if you will, until he gets comfortable in the batter's box from both sides of the plate."
Cora will have to earn his spot on the bench this Spring, but his ability to play second will no doubt help his chances. Alberto Gonzalez is the only other infielder currently on the Nationals' roster.