ST. LOUIS -- At a ceremony this morning in Santo Domingo, St. Louis Cardinals farm director/VP Jeff Luhnow presented coveted talent Wagner Mateo with a Cardinals jersey, a symbolic gesture that the organization had just taken its boldest move yet into the realm of international player acquisition.
The international signing period opened today, and the Cardinals announced this morning that they finalized a deal with the 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic.
Mateo, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound center fielder, bats and throws lefthanded. He was born on March 30, 1993, and according to reports his birth date was cleared during an investigation of prospects by Major League Baseball. Mateo played in Major League Baseball's RBI World Series in both 2007 and 2008 representing the Dominican Republic.
A video of him can be seen in this May 29 blog entry that reported the Cardinals' interest.
The Cardinals brought Mateo to Jupiter, Fla., for a workout with team personnel and a few weeks ago general manager John Mozeliak flew down to the Dominican Republic in person to meet Mateo, see him play and finalize the record agreement that became a contract today. He's expected to have received a bonus of $3.1 million, almost $2 million more than the Cardinals previous record for an international signing.
"We have come a long way since re-establishing our presence in the Dominican Republic in 2004," Luhnow said in a release. "I want to thank everyone involved and especially ownership for providing the resources for us to compete for the top international talent."
On Wagner's ability, Cardinals scout and director of international operations Moises Rodriguez said in the release: "Wagner is the top player available in Latin America this year and we have scouted him heavily over the past two years. His bat is special and we look forward to his continued development as a professional."