Bobby Bonilla’s favorite day is, without a doubt, July 1st. That’s because every year through 2035, he can expect to receive a clean $1,193,248.20 paycheck from the New York Mets, even though he last played for them in 1999.
So how did the Mets get here?
By the fall of 1991, Bonilla was the biggest free agent on the market after finishing four consecutive All-Star seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and earning two MVP finalist honors in both 1990 and 1991, the latter in which he led the National League with 44 doubles.
The Mets broke the bank for Bonilla, signing him to what was then the most lucrative contract in MLB history, as the Amazin signed him to a five-year, $29 million deal.
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However, the relationship between Bonilla and the Mets quickly became contentious, and the Mets traded him to the Baltimore Orioles in the summer of 1995 during the fourth year of his contract.
Bonilla had a chance to redeem himself with the Mets when they traded him before the 1999 season. However, he only played in 60 games, struggled immensely, and had numerous arguments with manager Bobby Valentine. Under the circumstances, the Mets released him, but still owed him the remaining $5.9 million on his contract.
This is where the conception of Bobby Bonilla Day begins.
Instead of paying him the rest of the money owed, the Mets and Bonilla negotiated an agreement to make annual payments of just under $1.2 million every July 1 from 2011 through 2035, when Bonilla is 72, which included 8% negotiated interest. .
So why did the Mets decide to put in close to $30 million over the long term instead of just handing over the $5.9 million? Well, then-owner Fred Wilpon had invested with Ponzi scheme artist Bernie Madoff and expected double-digit returns on the deal, which didn’t happen and Wilpon ended up with the short end of the stick.
It has been reported that Wilpon lost an estimated $700 million through Madoff, who was jailed in 2009 and spent the rest of his life in prison.
Good for Bobby Bonilla. he’s getting paid more than $1 million each year until 2035 to do nothing. However, there are many common misconceptions surrounding this arrangement.
The first is that Bonilla was a bust with the Mets, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, he posted some of his best numbers in Queens.
From 1992 until the time he was traded in 1995, he had a .921 OPS with the team, which is better than the .838 he had with the Pirates. He also hit a career-high 34 home runs with the Mets in 1993, and was an American League All-Star in 1993 and 1995. Sure, in his 1999 return, he hit just .160 with a .579 OPS. both the worst of his career, but for the most part, the notion that Bonilla was a disappointment on the field for most of his time with the Mets is false.
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Another is that there’s simply nothing positive for the Mets, which is also a falsehood.
By forgoing paying Bonilla immediately, that freed up money for the Mets to accept the contract of left-handed pitcher Mike Hampton, who was a staple in their rotation in 2000 and helped them reach that year’s World Series.
Hampton only spent one season in New York, but his departure in free agency resulted in a first-round comp pick, which turned out to be a franchise icon in David Wright.
Besides, Bonilla may have screwed up a bit. According to Insiderif Bonilla had accepted the $5.9 million and invested it at 8%, it would have grown to $104.1 million by 2035. If she had accepted each annual payment at 8% investment, it would have reached $95.2 million over 12 years, the Current «. only» deal has him earning just over $29 million.
Oh, and this shouldn’t be a secret, but for whatever reason, it’s often ignored. Bonilla isn’t the only athlete, current or former, with deferred payments, and some are getting even better deals.
According to Metsmerizedthe Orioles will pay Chris Davis $42 million in deferred money payable in 10 installments of $3.5 million annually each July 1 through 2032, and five installments of $1.4 million each July 1 from 2023 through 2037. Davis originally signed a $161 million contract in 2016, but hit just .196 with a .670 OPS from that season until his retirement in 2020.
The Cincinnati Reds have also been paying Ken Griffey Jr. $3.59 million a year since 2009, but that will finally end next year.
The Washington Nationals will pay Stephen Strasburg $10 million per year from 2024 to 2030, and he has earned just eight starts from when he signed his record-breaking $245 million contract in 2019.
Dustin Pedroia rakes in $2.5 million from the Boston Red Sox every year through 2028, and Chris Sale, who is prone to injury, will get $10 million a year from 2035 through 2039.
Ironically, the Mets aren’t even the only team making deferred payments to Bonilla. He also receives $500,000 from the O’s each year on July 1 and those payments began in 2004.
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Despite being the butt of jokes, the Mets have fun too with Bobby Bonilla Day.
Last year, new team owner Steve Cohen, who bought the team from the Wilpons in 2020, tweeted that July 1 is his «favorite day of the year».
So while it’s fun to laugh at the Mets every once in a while (especially this season), they came out of this bizarre predicament in pretty decent shape.
And of course Bobby too.