Morningstar has named three finalists for its inaugural 2012 Morningstar Alternatives Fund Manager of the Year award.

The award, the winner of which will be named the first week in January, considers long-term record as well as portfolio decisions and performance. The nominees are:

• Michael Aronstein, manager of MainStay Marketfield fund, which has a year to date return through Dec. 16 of 11.6 percent. In 2007, Aronstein launched this macroeconomic-themed long-short equity mutual fund, which earned a 5-star Morningstar Rating over the past three and five years, as well as a bronze Morningstar Analyst Rating. Aronstein served as manager of global investment strategy for Merrill Lynch in the 1980s, president of Comstock Partners (an RIA) in the late 1990s, and chief investment strategist for Oscar Gruss & Son in the 2000s.

The team from Calamos Market Neutral Income, which has a year-to-date return through Dec. 16 of 5.6 percent. The fund allocates about half its capital to a convertible arbitrage strategy and half to a covered call-writing stock strategy that is hedged with index put options. Driving Calamos Market Neutral Income’s performance is a deep research bench and decades of experience. Managers John Calamos Sr., John Calamos Jr., John Hillenbrand, Steve Klouda, Jeff Scudieri, Jon Vacko, Christopher Hartman, Joe Wysocki and Gary Black run the fund.

• The team from TFS Market Neutral, which has a year-to-date return through Dec.16 of 6.5 percent. The fund, which follows a quantitative small-cap equity arbitrage strategy, is currently the only alternative mutual fund receiving a gold Morningstar analyst rating. It’s also one of the oldest in the market-neutral category, with an eight-year track record. The management team includes Eric Newman, Richard and Kevin Gates, Larry Eiben, Chao Chen and Yan Liu.