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“He’s 27 years old and it looks like he’s coming into his own,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s a guy who can hit at the top of the order, whether its first or second. He can steal a base, he’s athletic and can play anywhere in the outfield.”

By acquiring Cabrera, the Giants could decide against offering a contract to outfielder Cody Ross. The 2010 NL championship series MVP is seeking a two-year deal.

Moore said the deal made sense for both sides. Their salaries are about the same and both players are eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, when the Giants hope prospect Gary Brown is ready for the majors.

The Giants had a surplus of starting pitchers, and the Royals are confident enough in Cain to give him a shot at the everyday job.

Cain hit .312 with 16 homers and 81 RBIs this year for Triple-A Omaha.

“It was very important for us to free up an opportunity for Lorenzo Cain to play center field for us every day,” Moore said. “We felt we needed to move on this deal with Jonathan Sanchez before it moved away.”

The Giants aren’t yet sure where in the outfield Cabrera will play and where he will hit in the batting order, saying those decisions will be made after they have a better idea of who else is on the team.

Finding a leadoff hitter is a priority for San Francisco, and Cabrera filled that role for about a quarter of a season with the Yankees in 2007. But he almost exclusively batted second last season and his career on-base percentage of .331 is not ideal for a leadoff hitter.

“I’m willing to play anywhere in the order where the manager wants to put me,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “I know this year I batted second. But wherever they put me I’ll do the best job I can.”

This move likely means that lefty Barry Zito will likely be in the Giants rotation again in 2012. At the end of the season Sabean reiterated president Larry Baer’s recent statement that struggling $126 million pitcher will remain on the team rather than buying out his huge salary.

The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with Oakland, Zito has struggled in his five years across the bay in San Francisco and was left off the postseason roster for all three rounds in 2010. He is owed $19 million next year, $20 million in 2013 and has an $18 million team option with a $7 million buyout in 2014.

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley and AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this report.