LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. | Two days ago, the Royals didn’t have a single right-handed-hitting option in their outfield.
Now, it appears, they’re about to have two.
Switch-hitter Melky Cabrera, 26, neared agreement early Thursday on a one-year contract for a guaranteed $1.25 million with $250,000 in performances. The pending deal comes less than 24 hours after the Royals signed right-handed-hitting Jeff Francoeur to be their starting right fielder.
Royals officials said no deal was in place prior to departing the Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort but privately acknowledged an agreement appeared likely.
Cabrera, 26, is expected to be given a chance to win the starting job in center field.
“That’s how you convince these bounce-back guys to sign,” one club official said. “They have other offers. So you give them a chance to play regularly. Now, what they do with it is up to them.”
Any deal with Cabrera, as with Francoeur, is pending the successful completion of a physical examination. That means neither player has yet been added to the club’s 40-man roster. Francoeur’s exam is scheduled for Monday.
The Royals have no roster vacancies after selecting right-handed pitcher Nate Adcock from Pittsburgh later Thursday in the Rule 5 Draft. Accordingly, they must clear space for Francoeur and (probably) Cabrera by jettisoning two players.
The leading candidates are right-handed pitchers Phil Humber and Kanekoa Texeira, and utility infielders Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadzki. The latter two were acquired through recent waiver claims.
Cabrera fits the profile of what the Royals sought while bargain-hunting for a second right-handed-hitting outfielder: A still-young player looking for a bounce-back season after showing productive skills in the past.
Perhaps a return to the American League can rejuvenate Cabrera, who spent four years as a regular in the Yankees’ outfield before a trade last December sent him to Atlanta. He managed just four homers and 42 RBIs while batting .255 in 147 games for the Braves.
Atlanta released Cabrera after the season.
The Royals nearly acquired Cabrera in 2006 from the Yankees for veteran outfielder Reggie Sanders. The deal fell apart when Sanders suffered an injury just prior to the trading deadline.
Cabrera batted .267 with a .328 OBP in 569 games for the Yankees from 2005-09 while averaging nine homers and 57 RBIs.