NEW YORK -- He doesn't hit 30 home runs, catch or pitch. But Alex Cora makes the Mets a better team in ways subtle and not so subtle. So even though his agreeing to a contract with the club late Monday addresses none of the club's primary needs, it does fill a need.

Now the Mets have a sense of who will play shortstop when Jose Reyes doesn't or second base when Luis Castillo -- or his successor -- doesn't. And the home clubhouse at Citi Field will have a respected voice and a presence.

Cora, a free agent who was injured for much of last season, passed a physical and agreed to a contract that will pay him $2 million for 2010. The deal includes an option for 2011 that can vest if he reaches certain quantitative levels.

Cora is the first big league player the Mets have added to their roster since the season ended, and one they came to appreciate last season, his first with the club.

The club also moved closer to acquiring free-agent catcher Chris Coste. The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (N.D.) reported on Monday that Coste, a native of Fargo, will be guaranteed a position on the 40-man roster, though not the Opening Day 25-man roster. A person with the Mets indicated that Coste must pass a physical before the contract is in place.

There was no indication that Coste, 37, would address the Mets' need for a regular catcher. Coste and Omir Santos, a near regular for much of last summer, are right-handed hitters.

"I'm excited about coming back," Cora said on Monday. "We have a lot to prove as a team after what happened last year. As for me personally, there is unfinished business. I was hurt a great deal of the time, and I really wasn't able to perform like I know I can. I'm healthy now, and I can't wait to get to Spring Training. We all have something to prove."

Cora started 54 games at shortstop and 13 at second base, significantly more than either he or the Mets envisioned in January, when he signed a one-year contract for $2 million. Reyes' extended stay on the disabled list turned the now-34-year-old veteran into a regular. He wore down and ended his season on Aug. 12, when fatigue, the condition of both thumbs and the Mets' position in the standings said it was time.

Cora had torn ligaments in both thumbs in consecutive games in May. He was assigned to the DL on May 18, two days before Reyes played his final game.

Cora returned to active duty on June 4 and started 56 of the Mets' subsequent 63 games. He underwent surgery on Aug. 20 to repair the right thumb and on Sept. 21 to repair the left.

He batted .308 in his final 13 games and finished his first season in the National League since 2004 with a .251 batting average, 18 RBIs, 31 runs and 14 extra-base hits (one home run) in 271 at-bats.

Coste who played for the Phillies in 2006, 2007 and into last season, was claimed on waivers by the Astros on July 10. He batted .224 with 18 RBIs, 15 runs and 15 extra-base hits (two home runs) in 205 at-bats with the two teams. He is a career .272 hitter with 23 home runs and 108 RBIs in 299 games (806 at-bats).