Indians agree to $2.7 million deal with Cora

Updated: January 18, 2005, 6:35 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Infielder Alex Cora agreed Tuesday to a $2.7 million, two-year contract with Cleveland to fill a utility role.

"Alex is overqualified to be called a utility player and has the upside to be a starter," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "He should get a chance to start 50, 60 games."

Cora, 29, started 122 games at second base last season, but the Indians already have Ronnie Belliard in that role. Los Angeles didn't offer Cora a contract last month, allowing him to become a free agent.

Shapiro said Cora was brought in to give the Indians protection while bringing up shortstop Jhonny Peralta and second baseman Brandon Phillips.

"I'm comfortable at either position and I understand this is a different situation than I had in Los Angeles," Cora said. "I know Ronnie had a great season last year and that Jhonny is one of the top prospects in baseball. I'll just help the best way I can."

Cora hit .264 (107-for-405) last season with 10 homers and 47 RBIss in 138 games. He had a fielding percentage of .987, fifth best among NL second basemen.

His contract calls for salaries of $1.3 million this year and $1.4 million in 2006. He can make up to about $5 million over two years, including performances bonuses, and can void the second year if he has 450 plate appearances in 2005.

Cleveland avoided arbitration with right-hander David Riske, agreeing to a $1,425,000, one-year contract, a raise from his $1.05 million salary last year.

Right-hander Jake Westbrook asked for a raise from $1 million to $3.7 million and was offered $2.5 million. Third baseman Casey Blake, eligible for arbitration for the first time, asked for a raise from $352,400 to $2.6 million. The Indians offered $2.15 million.

If the sides don't settle, a hearing will be held next month.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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