December 10, 2010 / 9:19 PM / in 9 years

Royals sign free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera

Atlanta Braves batter Melky Cabrera (L) is mobbed by teammates including Martin Prado after his infield single and a throwing error by the New York Mets David Wright allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the ninth during MLB action in Atlanta, Georgia, May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Melky Cabrera will get the chance to prove himself as starting center fielder for Kansas City after signing a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the American League Royals on Friday.

The 26-year-old Cabrera, who slumped to a .255 average with four homers and 42 runs batted in last season, became a free agent when he was cut after one season by the Atlanta Braves.

“The thing about these bounce-back players is you’ve got to give them the opportunity to play every day and get themselves going again, and so Melky will get the opportunity going into spring training as being the starting center fielder,” Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters, according to

Cabrera, who began in Major League Baseball with the New York Yankees, joined a revamped outfield that includes Jeff Francoeur, who began his career with the Braves and split last season between the New York Mets and Texas Rangers.

The Royals began 2010 with an outfield of Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and David DeJesus, who have all been traded.

Francoeur, who along with projected left fielder Alex Gordon is also 26, could grow together as a unit for the Royals, according to general manager Dayton Moore, whose team finished last in the AL Central at 67-95.

“We targeted Jeff and Melky months ago as players that we felt were not even at the prime years of their career yet ... there was an upside there, guys that were going to play with energy, guys that were going to be enthusiastic,” Moore said.

Writing by Larry Fine, Editing by Alan Baldwin

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