Bobby Bonilla Day explained: Why the Mets still pay him $1.19M every July 1

Sports

The calendar has turned to July 1, and that means one thing: It’s time for Mets fans everywhere to wish each other a Happy Bobby Bonilla Day! Why? On Friday, 59-year-old Bobby Bonilla will collect a check for $1,193,248.20 from the New York Mets, as he has and will every July 1 from 2011 through 2035.

Because of baseball’s salary structure, Bonilla’s annual payday is often more than some of the game’s current young stars will make in a given year — and this season that even includes the salary of one of the sport’s biggest sluggers and some potential 2022 All-Stars.

But the Mets are not alone in the practice of handing out deferred payments to star players long after they last suited up for the team, with former MVPs and Cy Young winners among the notable names still collecting annual paychecks from their previous employers.

Here is everything you need to know about Bonilla’s payday, deferred money in MLB and the current players making less for the 2022 season than Bobby Bo will receive from the Mets on Friday.

So why does Bonilla get this payday?

In 2000, the Mets agreed to buy out the remaining $5.9 million on Bonilla’s contract.

However, instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million at the time, the Mets agreed to make annual payments of nearly $1.2 million for 25 years starting July 1, 2011, including a negotiated 8% interest.

At the time, Mets ownership was invested in a Bernie Madoff account that promised double-digit returns, and the Mets were poised to make a significant profit if the Madoff account delivered — but that did not work out.

Under new owner Steve Cohen, who mentioned the possibility of celebrating Bonilla at Citi Field annually soon after taking over the team, the Mets are embracing Bonilla’s day.

How rare is this arrangement?

Bonilla last played for the Mets in 1999 and last played in the majors for the Cardinals in 2001, but he will be paid through 2035 (when he’ll be 72).

Here are some other notable deferred-money contracts, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information’s Ryan Milowicki:

• Bobby Bonilla (again): A second deferred-contract plan with the Mets and Orioles pays him $500,000 a year for 25 years. Those payments began in 2004.

• Bret Saberhagen: Will receive $250,000 a year from the Mets for 25 years (payments also began in 2004; this was the inspiration for Bonilla’s deal).

Max Scherzer: Will receive $105 million total from the Nationals that will be paid out through 2028.

• Manny Ramírez: Will collect $24.2 million total from the Red Sox through 2026.

• Ken Griffey Jr.: Will receive $3.59 million from the Reds every year through 2024 as the deferral from his nine-year, $116 million deal signed in 2000.

• Todd Helton: Will get $1.3 million from the Rockies every year through 2023 as the result of $13 million deferred when he signed a two-year extension in 2010.

How this compares to 2022 salaries

Because baseball’s salary structure has young players start their careers by earning just over half of Bonilla’s annual $1.19 million, here are some notable players who will be making less than Bonilla this season, listed by their 2022 WAR total:

Tommy Edman (4.3 WAR): $722K

Yordan Alvarez (3.7 WAR): $764K

Kyle Tucker (3.7 WAR): $764K

Alejandro Kirk (3.3 WAR): $714K

Tony Gonsolin (3.2 WAR): $720K

Alek Manoah (3.1 WAR): $730K

Ty France (3.0 WAR): $734K

Andres Gimenez (3.0 WAR): $706K

Jeremy Pena (2.9 WAR): $700K

Julio Rodriguez (2.9 WAR): $700K

Figures from ESPN Stats & Information were used throughout this story.

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