July 1st is every Mets fans favorite day of the year. Today is Bobby Bonilla Day. Once again, the Mets will pay Bobby Bonilla 1.19 million dollars today. Bonilla last played for the Mets in 1999. The real kicker though is that the payments will continue until 2035, when Bonilla is 72 years old. Today, we are going to take a deep dive into Bobby Bonilla Dy, the career he had, and the decisions that led up to this very strange pay structure.
Bobby Bonilla was a perennial all-star for most of his career. At one point, he became the highest paid player in team sports when he signed a 5 year, $29.1 million contract with the Mets in 1992. He was just coming off four straight all-star season and consecutive top 3 MVP finishes with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He lasted 2 1/2 seasons in Queens before they traded him to the Orioles in 1995. Two seasons later, he helped the Marlins win the World Series in 1997
After winning the World Series, Bonilla was traded along with Gary Sheffield to the Dodgers to acquire Mike Piazza. Piazza was then traded to the Mets just eight days later. The Mets brought Bonilla back in 1999. The team made the playoffs, but Bonilla only hit .160 in 60 games. It was a this point, the Mets found it best to part ways with the aging slugger.
Bonilla and the Mets reached a mutually beneficial payout structure. The Mets were on the hook for $5.9 million. They agreed that the payments would be deferred for a decade with 8% interest. The Mets were planning on investing the money they saved right away with a very lucrative investment firm, run by Bernie Madoff. We all know how that story ended. The payments began in 2011 and will continue until 2035. My favorite fun fact about this is that at one point in 2012, Bonilla and Jason Bay were the two highest paid outfielders on the Mets payroll. Bonilla was receiving these payments, while Bay was playing for the Mariners Triple-A team.
Deferred payments have become much more popular in the sport. Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox had a payment plan that kept him on their payroll through the past decade. Also, Max Scherzer and the Nationals have an agreement that when his contract is up, Scherzer will receive $15 million every year from 2022-2028.
Of course, looking back on this contract makes the Mets look like idiots. However, it did allow for the team to draft David Wright with a compensatory pick in 2001. There were a series of transactions that the team made following the buyout, that led to the Mets receiving the pick that they used on Wright. Wright had his career cut short by spinal stenosis, but he ultimately became one of the most important players in franchise history. Meanwhile, Bonilla wakes up every July 1 with $1.19 million added to his bank account. The payments started when Bonilla was 48 years old and will continue until he is 72. July 1 is always a great day for Bonilla, but Mets fans can live without the memes and comments every year. With all that said, happy Bobby Bonilla Day, Mets fans, we’re one year closer to this ending.
-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)
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