St. Louis Continues Push Into Latin America: Signs Highly Touted Wagner Mateo

Matt 'Frostin' FooteCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2009

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals flies out with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning against New York Mets during game seven of the NLCS at Shea Stadium on October 19, 2006 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Ya I know the picture is Albert but the picture thing wouldn't allow me to upload one.)

The Cardinals continued their recent push into Latin America with a major signing on Thursday, as they announced a deal with 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Wagner Mateo.

Once all but a non-factor in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the Cardinals have increased their efforts in those areas in recent years. Mateo is the highest-profile fruit of that labor to date.

According to multiple reports, he will receive a bonus of $3 million or a little more. That would be the second-largest bonus ever paid to a Latin American free agent, and the largest to a hitter, trailing only the $4.25 million the A's gave pitcher Michael Ynoa last year.

"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," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement issued by the team.

Mateo is listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds and swings left-handed. He turned 16 on March 30. He participated in Major League Baseball's RBI World Series in 2007 and 2008, representing the Dominican Republic.

Along with infielder Miguel Sano, Mateo is widely considered one of the top two talents in this year's pool of amateur free agents from Latin America. Thursday marked the beginning of the signing period for those players.

This now means the Cardinals could have a backup to Albert Pujols in a few years as hopefully Mateo continues to crush pitching at a professional level.