HAINES CITY, FLA. The Kansas City Royals made a trade with the New York Mets Friday in order to keep Rule 5 draft pick Endy Chavez.
The Royals sent minor league outfielder Mike Curry, who led the Texas League with 52 stolen bases last season with Class AA Wichita, to the Mets for Chavez.
Chavez will begin the season with Wichita, while Curry will join the Mets' Class AA Binghamton (N.Y.) affiliate in the Eastern League.
The Royals selected Chavez for $50,000 in the December Rule 5 draft and would have had to keep him on the major-league roster all season or offer him back to the Mets for $25,000.
The Royals wanted to keep Chavez because of his defense, but there was some question whether he was ready to hit major-league pitching. He has never played above Class A and hit .188 with no extra-base hits in 32 bats in spring training.
"Right now he's arguably the best outfielder we have defensively," Royals general manager Allard Baird said. "He knows his strengths and weaknesses. He needs to get stronger physically. We're obviously pleased to be able to keep him."
So was manager Tony Muser.
"He can play center field right now in the majors," Muser said. "I was very adamant in all the meetings with Allard about keeping him. I didn't beg him, but I'm a defensive-minded guy."
The trade allows the club to develop the 23-year-old Chavez and not rush him to the majors.
The trade also made roster space for Dee Brown, a 1996 first-round pick who has a .338 average.
In other roster moves to reach the 25-man limit by opening day, the Royals sent six players to their Class AAA Omaha affiliate. They are pitchers Chad Durbin, Shawn Sonnier, Chris Fussell and Cory Bailey, outfielder Jon Nunnally and infielder Wilson Delgado.
The Royals also placed four players on the disabled list: left-handers Scott Mullen and Jose Rosado, right-hander Orber Moreno and catcher Gregg Zaun. Mullen, Rosado and Moreno all had surgery last year, while Zaun tore a calf muscle Wednesday.
The Royals purchased the contracts of pitchers Jason Grimsley and Tony Cogan and first baseman-outfielder Raul Ibanez, adding them to the roster. Cogan, a rookie, is the left-hander on the 11-man pitching staff. All three were non-roster invites to spring training.