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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Time to admit there WAS “dry powder”

Despite what some think, the St. Louis Cardinals are spending money. Where is all the “DeWallet” whining now?

Thursday’s official confirmation that the St. Louis Cardinals organization has formally signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Wagner Mateo (pictured) for a reported $3.1 million signing bonus comes on top of last Saturday’s trade for Major League infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa.

Mateo’s deal is almost three times the organization’s largest previous bonus paid to a Latin American amateur, the $1.1 million reportedly given to last July 2nd’s big signing, third baseman Roberto De La Cruz, also from the Dominican Republic.

Putting aside the risks of doling out that much money to kid of just 16 years of age, one cannot dispute the Cardinals’ willingness to make such a significant financial commitment to someone they believe can grow into being an impact Major Leaguer down the road.

In securing the services of DeRosa, a free agent following this season, the Cardinals took on a half-season’s worth of his salary, approximately $2.8 million. The aggressive move was made a month earlier than the trade deadline and put the Cardinals’ National League Central opponents on the defensive – a marked change from 2008, when the shoe was on the other foot.

This total of about $6 million ($3.1 for Mateo and $2.8 for DeRosa) does not represent expenditures that the organization was required to make. They were clearly carried out with a balanced view toward the present (DeRosa) and the future (Mateo).

In the DeRosa deal, the Cardinals also gave up two of their “precious Faberge eggs”, reliever Chris Perez and a player to be named later, rumored to be among a list of players that include pitchers Jess Todd (our fourth-ranked Cardinals prospect) and Francisco Samuel (19th on the same list).

So, I have read all the criticism and the childish name-calling for months. Where are the columns now that give credit where credit is due to the ownership group for dealing and spending to improve and invest?

Here is one.

I admit that I was among the skeptics when club officials said over the winter that they would be keeping some of their powder dry – in other words, not immediately spending all of their expense budget in this tough economy while holding back until during the season.

It was easy to assume this was a hollow promise designed to soften the blow of a reduced Major League player budget compared to 2008. Some critics chose to ignore both the eroding economy as well as a significant trend all across MLB to cut player expenditures, as if the Cardinals were isolated and insulated from the rest of the world.

So far, the organization has lived up to its word.

Yet if the club continues to flail on the field, these expenditures will quickly be forgotten amid the pleas to spend more via acquiring other Major Leaguers for the final two or three months.

Though in an ideal world, we would all probably like to see the Cardinals commit more and more, it is time to admit that they have followed through in a tangible manner and not let their positive moves this week be taken for granted.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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