Here on July 2nd, the first official signing day for 16-year-olds, the St. Louis Cardinals have made an unprecedented commitment to international signings when they announced at a press conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic that they have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Wagner Mateo.
Mateo, 16, who hails from Santo Domingo, is considered by many to be among the top three amateur free agents on the market from Latin America this year. Though the Cardinals did not announce his signing bonus, earlier rumors placed the amount at $3.1 million, eclipsing by almost three times the club’s previous record, $1.1 million given last year to Roberto De La Cruz.
As such, it would be the second-largest bonus ever given to an amateur Latin American player, and the largest bonus for a Latin American hitter. Mateo’s signing is conditional on a physical to be conducted by Cardinals team doctors in St Louis later this summer.
Among other clubs rumored to be after Mateo was the San Francisco Giants. Cardinals' Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak traveled to the Dominican last week to reportedly seal the deal with the Mateo camp.
"This agreement is a significant step for the organization in Latin America and reflects our desire to scout and develop the best talent across the globe," said Mozeliak.
The 6-foot-2, 190 pound Mateo bats and throws left handed and was born on March 30, 1993. He participated in Major League Baseball's RBI World Series in both 2007 and 2008 representing the Dominican Republic. The tournament was held at MLB's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, CA.
"We have come a long way since re-establishing our presence in the Dominican Republic in 2004," said Jeff Luhnow, Cardinals' Vice President of Scouting and Player Development. "I want to thank everyone involved and especially ownership for providing the resources for us to compete for the top international talent."
"Wagner is the top player available in Latin America this year and we have scouted him heavily over the past two years," stated Cardinals' Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez. "His bat is special and we look forward to his continued development as a professional."
Jeff Luhnow and Moises Rodriguez were on hand for a ceremony Thursday morning at the Hilton Hotel in Santo Domingo where Mateo was introduced and presented with a Cardinals jersey. Also on hand were Mateo's parents, younger brother and Cardinals scouts including Latin American Scouting Supervisor Juan Mercado.
Follow the link to Mateo’s scouting report from Baseball Prospectus (subscriber content). Their video follows.
Wagner Mateo from Kiley McDaniel on Vimeo.
The Cardinals organization did not immediately announce coming to terms with any additional July 2nd players. It is not unusual for others to be announced over the next days and weeks as the July 2nd date signifies the first date, not the only date when players can be signed.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.
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