Bobby Bonilla Day
On July 1st, the New York Mets celebrated Bobby Bonilla Day. For those who don’t know, Bobby Bonilla Day is an annual day where the Mets make good on a contract stipulation that pays the former player more than one million dollars a year. In 2000, the Mets bought out Bonilla’s contract that had $5.9 million left with the money to be paid in annual installments starting in 2011 and ending in 2035.
By factoring in the pre-negotiated 8% interest rate, this balloons the payments from the $5.9 million that was originally owed to Bonilla to the more than $25 million he gets paid in installments. To put this in perspective, Bonilla, who has not played since the 2001 season, is getting paid more money this year than two of the Mets’ best players combined — Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso. Bonilla will get paid by the Mets until he is 72 years old.
Additionally, Bonilla is double-dipping in deferred payments. He gets a second deferred payment of $500,000 that is split evenly between the Mets and the Baltimore Orioles.
This is a common business practice in baseball. By deferring money on contracts, it frees up salary to sign or trade for players who can help the team win that season. Teams can seemingly repeat this process frequently, but at some point, these payments need to be made. Bonilla is the poster boy for deferred payments, but as shown below, there are many more examples and far more money getting paid out.
Other Retired Players
Ken Griffey Jr. signed a nine-year, $116.5 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. The Reds deferred half the money. Griffey Jr. gets paid $3.5 million every year until 2025. Griffey Jr. retired after the 2010 season.
Former Atlanta Braves reliever Bruce Sutter signed a six-year, $9.1 million dollar contract before the 1985 season. Sutter received $750,000 per season with the rest of the money getting deferred. He retired after only playing four seasons in Atlanta, but the contract stated he would receive the entire $9.1 million. Sutter receives 30 deferred payments of $1.12 million ending in 2021.
Other Retired All-Stars
The St. Louis Cardinals are paying Matt Holliday $1.4 million from 2020 to 2029. The Detroit Tigers are paying Gary Sheffield $12.5 million in deferred money, with the final payment being made this season. Sheffield, who is also receiving an undisclosed amount of deferred money from the New York Yankees, only played two seasons in Detroit.
Alex Rodriguez is still getting deferred payments from the Texas Rangers. The Rangers, who owed Rodriguez $26 million in deferred payments, went bankrupt in 2010. This money is not being paid by the Rangers, but, instead, Rodriguez is getting paid by an investment account set up when the Rangers changed ownership. Manny Ramirez is getting paid $2 million a year from the Boston Red Sox and will until 2026.
More than Bonilla
The Mets, who seem to be the undisputed king of deferred payments, were also paying Darryl Strawberry 40 percent of his 1990 salary of $1.8 million at a 5.1% interest rate that was to be paid between 2004-2033. That payment was sold by the IRS to the highest bidder in 2015. In addition, they are paying pitcher Johan Santana $5.5 million a year in deferred payments that end in 2020. In addition, the Mets just finished paying Carlos Beltran his deferred payments in 2018 with a check for $3.1 million.
There are also current major league players who are either receiving deferred money or will in the future.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis will be receiving 15 deferred payments. The Orioles will pay Davis $3.5 million from 2023 to 2032 and $1.4 million from 2033 to 2037.
The Washington Nationals have deferred payments for two of their current starting pitchers. Max Scherzer has a $15 million payment annually from 2022 to 2028. Stephen Strasburg is set to receive $10 million annually from 2024 to 2030.
Great Player Contracts
This is something that a lot of teams are doing, but somehow, the Mets are the butt of the joke. Granted, the poor play of Bonilla at the time has something to do with the backlash the Mets receive.
This list is just a very small portion of the players who are receiving deferred money. These contracts were negotiated brilliantly for the players. Not only was the money they were getting paid during the years spent on the diamond very substantial, but they are also making even more money now that they have finished playing. You can’t beat that retirement plan.