09/22/09 9:50 PM ET
Cardinals terminate Mateo's contract
Physical exam reveals pre-existing conditions
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Mateo signed in July, agreeing to a deal that included a reported $3.1 million bonus. Medical exams, however, revealed Mateo had both a pre-existing injury and a pre-existing physical defect, leading the club to terminate the contract.
General manager John Mozeliak did not disclose the nature of the physical issues, but he said they were related. ESPN.com reported that Mateo's issue was with his vision. Mozeliak explained that, per the language of a Minor League contract, a club can void a deal within 90 days if a pre-existing injury is discovered.
"Once we came to agreement on the terms, he obviously had to pass a physical," Mozeliak said. "We did our due diligence, and we concluded that he had a pre-existing injury and he also is currently dealing with another injury. So having both those issues out there, we realized that it was going to be in the best interest of the club to go ahead and invoke the ... clause and void the contract."
Mateo's agent, Edgar Mercedes, could not be reached for comment.
Mateo, considered one of the top talents in this year's pool of amateur free agents in Latin America, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. He swings left-handed. He participated in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series in 2007 and '08, representing the Dominican Republic. He was expected to be a fast riser in the St. Louis organization.
Instead, he will not join the organization. Mozeliak said that the club currently has no plans to pursue a new, lesser deal with Mateo.
The cancellation of the deal is obviously a significant blow to Mateo, who appeared to have secured life-changing money as well as an opportunity to pursue a dream of playing in the Major Leagues. It's also, however, a blow to the Cardinals. The club has traded away a good bit of Minor League talent recently, and it viewed Mateo as a key piece in rebuilding its farm system.
Additionally, the Cardinals had hoped that the Mateo signing would validate them as serious players for Latin American amateur talent going forward. Mozeliak, however, said the club couldn't let concerns over perceptions or future deals prevent it from making the decision it made on Tuesday.
"I think you have to do what's right by the organization, even though there could be some negative effects as far as what we do down there," he said. "I still hope that people understand that we're going to try to be active and aggressive in Latin America for years to come."
Mozeliak also said that the club is very unlikely to pursue the one remaining elite free agent in the Dominican Republic, Miguel Angel Sano.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.