News and Notes: Nats sign Alex Cora, Avoid arbitration with Lannan

-The Washington Nationals filled a very practical need for a utility infielder today with the signing of free-agent veteran Alex Cora. The club found a vacancy at this position this week when former do-it-all guy Willie Harris left the club to sign with the New York Mets. The contract is reportedly worth $900,000 with a possible $600,000 in performance bonuses.  

Cora, 35, gives the Nationals a back up infielder who can play any position. Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo wanted to add more depth to the middle infield as they are planning to enter spring training with two very young starters up the middle. With the addition of Cora they now have an insurance policy in case something goes wrong with the youthful Danny Espinosa or Ian Desmond. 

In 66 games last season Cora played every infield position. While his defense was not spectacular at any, he is surely an upgrade over Willie Harris at any infield spot. He is not expected to contribute much at the plate in 2011, he only batted .210/.266/.278 in 2010. 

Thoughts: Cora is another Scott Boras client, and while he is not quite the talent that Jerry Hariston would have been, he will certainly fit the bill for this need. The word is that Hairston was asking for a bit too much money. Considering the Nationals are paying Cora a hair under $1 million, anything more for a utility guy would have been pushing it for a last place team.

It’s interesting though that Rizzo has again picked up another Boras guy. When I asked him last fall about his relationship with the infamous agent, he did not seem overly pleased by the question. Essentially he said that no agent will effect the kind of talent he goes after, but it seems more often than not that he seems to be drawn to the clients of Mr. Boras. 

- The Nationals avoided arbitration with left-handed starter John Lannan by agreeing to a one-year $2.75 million. Lannan, 26, has been one of the most consistent starters for the Nationals since 2007. In his young career he has posted a 8-11 record with a 4.11 ERA. 

Lannan will likely be the number two or three starter for the Nationals this spring, with Livan Hernandez claiming the number one spot.