Cardinals Void Wagner Mateo Contract

Record $3.1 million deal for 16-year-old Dominican outfielder terminated due to pre-existing eye condition.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that they have terminated the contract of Dominican Republic outfielder Wagner Mateo. Amid great fanfare, they announced a deal that included a team-record $3.1 million bonus on July 2, the first day the 16-year-old was eligible to be signed.

Mateo's Cardinals contract was contingent on a physical examination held in St. Louis in late July. Results of the exam discovered pre-existing injuries and physical defects that led to the decision by the club to void the contract.

Last week when the potential problem came to light, Mateo's agent and trainer Edgar Mercedes told ESPN that an incorrect sizing of the teenager's contact lenses led to an infection that affected his cornea. Mercedes said there was nothing more to the problem than that, the issue had been diagnosed and Mateo was on track in his recovery.

It would seem the Cardinals disagree. Their action indicates the defects are significant in that the club also had the right to re-negotiate the original deal within a 90-day window from July 2, but apparently instead decided to cut ties.

In Tuesday remarks to Baseball America, Mercedes reiterated his disagreement, saying Mateo's 20/30 vision in his right eye is better than many other players and concluded with this warning, "...it's going to be a legal issue."

Mateo had received the second-largest bonus ever given to an amateur Latin American player and the largest bonus for a Latin American hitter. All that is gone now as Mateo returns to free agent status.

This has to be considered a significant blow to the Cardinals' growing Latin American initiatives. In July, Mateo was introduced to the press amid great pomp and circumstance in St. Louis, a day that included the teenager taking batting practice at Busch Stadium. Club officials stated the centerfielder would have been a top ten talent had he been a part of the regular June First-Year Player Draft.

Since Mateo's signing, the organization has not added any other players from the region, though many come to terms over the course of the year, rather than on July 2 itself.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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