Monday is July 1, which means it’s Bobby Bonilla Day.
Bonilla, 56, has not played a MLB game since 2001. His last game as a Met was in the fall of 1999. Yet on July 1 every year, from now until 2035, Bonilla is paid approximately $1.9 million by the New York Mets. The Mets have been cutting this large check since 2011, and this marks Bonilla’s ninth annual payment.
Let’s take a look at why the Mets are still on the hook for writing a check to a player that has not been on the roster for two decades:
Bonilla first joined the Mets in 1991 as a free agent, signing a five-year, $29 million contract that, at the time, made him the highest-paid player in team sports. The Mets traded him to the Orioles on the final year of his five-year deal in 1996 before he hit the free agent market again and signed with the Marlins in 1997. He rejoined the Mets in 1999 via trade after a couple of season with the Dodgers following the Marlins’ sell-off in 1998. The Mets released Bonilla in January 2000 even though they still owed him $5.9 million in salary. Rather than accept the $5.9 million up front, Bonilla agreed to defer the money in exchange for 8 percent interest.
In 2011 — the first year Bonilla was paid under the deferment agreement — the $5.9 million had grown to $29.8 million. Spread that $29.8 million across 25 years from 2011-35 and you get that $1,193,248.20 annual payment.
Bonilla is 56 years old, so when he receives his final payment from the Mets in 2035, he’ll be 72.
In baseball, deferred-money deals are not uncommon at all. There are plenty of players receive deferred payments. Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez even agreed to a deferment contract, where the Red Sox owe him $31 million dollars through 2027.
There are not many others who have been able to cut a deal like Bonilla’s, and it’s especially noteworthy since his time in New York was ultimately disappointing and even tumultuous at times. Bonilla will bank an extra $23.9 million through interest by waiting a decade for his first payment.