Belliard gets minor league deal from Nats

Updated: February 18, 2007, 7:44 PM ET
Associated Press

VIERA, Fla. -- Infielder Ronnie Belliard agreed to a non-guaranteed, minor league contract with the Washington Nationals on Sunday that will pay him $750,000 if he makes the team -- which manager Manny Acta made sound like a foregone conclusion.

Second Base
Washington Nationals

147 13 67 63 .322 .272

Belliard, expected to report to camp Tuesday, provides insurance at second base, where he started for the St. Louis Cardinals in last year's World Series. He also can play third, his position on Acta's winter ball team in the Dominican Republic.

"He gives us depth up the middle, big time," Acta said. "I had a conversation with him and I already explained to him that I know that he would like to play every day, but that's not the case here. He's coming here to be a backup guy. He understood the point."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this month that authorities are investigating whether someone attempted to extort money from Belliard after he allegedly had an affair with that person's daughter. Belliard is married.

Acta said that is "not an issue. We're satisfied ... that he's clean."

The 31-year-old Belliard hit a combined .272 with 30 doubles, 13 homers and 67 RBIs with Cleveland and St. Louis in 2006.

"This guy hit .270 last year and played on the World Series champion club -- I think it's safe to say this guy is on our club," Acta said.

In parts of nine seasons with four major league clubs, Belliard has hit for a .272 average, with 80 homers and 439 RBIs.

"We feel it gives us protection in the middle of the diamond going into spring training, plus a good right-handed bat off the bench, which is something this club needed," general manager Jim Bowden said.

Bowden added that he looks at Belliard as the type of player who could bring something in return at the trading deadline.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press