Indians Sign Cora To Two-Year Contract
Alex Cora
Alex Cora
Indians Ink
Posted Jan 18, 2005


The Indians signed free-agent infielder Alex Cora to a two-year contract Tuesday -- adding to an already crowded middle infield.

Cora, 29, is expected to provide backup help at both second base and shortstop -- two positions where the Indians already appear to be well stocked.

Young Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Phillips are expected to battle for the starting job at shortstop, second baseman Ron Belliard was recently re-signed, and veteran infielder Jose Hernandez was signed as free agent from Los Angeles last month as another utility option.

"I'll just try to help the best I can," said Cora, who has spent his entire professional career in the Dodgers' organization. The native of Puerto Rico, drafted in the third round in 1996 out of the University of Miami, has a career batting average of .246 (482-for-1,961) with 27 homers and 173 RBI in 684 games since being called up to Los Angeles in 1998. He has played in 335 games at second base and 338 at short.

"In Alex Cora we have added a gold-glove caliber fielder who will improve the depth of the club," said general manager Mark Shapiro. "Alex has played extensively at shortstop and second base throughout his career and is coming off his best offensive season to date in the big leagues. He is a worthy complement and tremendous addition to our current group of middle infielders."

Cora hit .264 (107-for-405) with career highs of 10 homers and 47 RBI in 138 games in 2004, also drawing 47 walks while striking out only 41 times.

The two-year deal reportedly calls for Cora to get $1.3 million this year and $1.4 million in 2006 in base salary. He can make as much as an additional $3 million over the life of the contract by meeting certain performance bonuses.

"Alex is over-qualified to be called a utility player and has the upside to be a starter," said Shapiro. "He should get a chance to start 50, 60 games.

"This signing gives us a chance to break in a young shortstop (either Peralta or Phillips) and give them a break against a tough right-handed pitcher. And it allows us to give Ronnie a rest and avoid him wearing down."

Shapiro said he would expect Cora, however, to report to training camp next month trying to win a starting job.

Nevertheless, Cora said he understands his role at the present.

"I'm comfortable at either position and I understand this is a different situation than I had in Los Angeles," he said. "I know Ronnie had a great season last year and that Jhonny is one of the top prospects in baseball. I've been in this (situation) before and I got used to the role."

Cora said that Tampa Bay also had contacted him, but "The Indians showed a lot more interest from the get-go."

Shapiro said this probably will be his last signing, "except for maybe one or two small additions and perhaps signing some people we have now to multi-year deals."

It means that popular utilityman Lou Merloni will not be back. "Merloni was in the picture," Shapiro said. "It was a painful, emotional choice from a personal standpoint (not to bring him back)."

Shapiro also said that he will turn his immediate attention to signing the three Indians players who are eligible for arbitration -- Jake Westbrook, Casey Blake and David Riske.

"We've made progress with two of the three," said Shapiro, adding that he might look to sign one (probably Westbrook) and possibly two (Blake) to longer deals.

To make room for Cora on the 40-man roster, the Indians designated minor-league third baseman Corey Smith for assignment. The team has 10 days to trade, release or outright Smith to the minors.

Cora and his brother Joey, now a coach with the Chicago White Sox, will become the ninth set of brothers to play for the Indians.

Joey, a second baseman, was acquired from Seattle in a trade for David Bell on Aug. 31, 1998. He hit .229 in 24 games for Cleveland, then went 1-for-17 with the Tribe in postseason play that year and retired at age 33 -- just one year after having his finest season in the majors when he hit .300 with 11 homers, 54 RBI and 105 runs scored for the Mariners.

Here is a list of the brother combinations to play for the Indians:

2B Roberto Alomar (1999-01) and C Sandy Alomar (1990-00)
C Dick Brown (1957-59) and INF Larry Brown (1963-71)
INF Alex Cora (2005- ) and 2B Joey Cora (1998)
RHP Dave (Highpockets) Gregg (1913) and LHP Vean Gregg (1911-14)
OF-INF Bill Hinchman (1907-09) and 2B Harry Hinchman (1907)
OF-1B Chan Perry (2000) and 1B-3B Herbert Perry (1994-96)
RHP Gaylord Perry (1972-75) and RHP Jim Perry (1959-63, 1974-75)
INF Joe Sewell (1920-30) and C Luke Sewell (1921-32)
1B-INF George (Firebrand) Stovall (1904-11) and RHP Jesse (Scout) Stovall (1903)

ALEX CORA'S MAJOR-LEAGUE CAREER:

Yr

Team

Age

G

AB

H

AVG

HR

RBI

SB

BB

SO

98

Los Angeles

22

29

33

4

.121

0

0

0

2

8

99

Los Angeles

23

11

30

5

.167

0

3

0

0

4

00

Los Angeles

24

109

353

84

.238

4

32

4

26

53

01

Los Angeles

25

134

405

88

.217

4

29

0

31

58

02

Los Angeles

26

115

258

75

.291

5

28

7

26

38

03

Los Angeles

27

148

477

119

.249

4

34

4

16

59

04

Los Angeles

28

138

405

107

.264

10

47

3

47

41

MLB Totals

684

1961

482

.246

27

173

18

148

261



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