Fair warning, Mets fans: while we thank you for clicking on the link to this particular post, it might be best to avert your eyes and go peruse some of our others instead.
Everyone else still reading? Cool. Okay, so July 1st typically means a few different things: it's Canada Day for all our friends up North, the start of NHL and NBA Free Agency (at least in non-pandemic years) for fans of those leagues and, of course, the one and only Bobby Bonilla Day. Every July 1st, you can count on seeing a bunch of 50+ year old white men - otherwise known as baseball reporters - take to social media to celebrate this momentous occasion. So, what exactly is Bobby Bonilla Day? Why is he earning his tenth in a series of 25 total payouts of exactly $1,193,248.20 today? Well, allow me to summarize below:
Prior to the 2000 MLB season, the Mets and Bobby Bonilla agreed to a buyout for the remainder of his contract, a sum of $5.9 million overall. However, instead of simply making a lump sum payment to Bonilla at that point, the Mets thought it would be a brilliant idea to instead make annual July 1st payments of nearly $1.2 million for 25 consecutive years. This arrangement began on July 1st, 2011 and runs through 2035; the deal also included a negotiated 8% interest rate to boot.
This begs the question: why did the Mets agree to such a horrid deal? Why pay a player you bought out for $5.9 million a total of $29,831,205 over 25 years? Even when you take the time value of money into consideration, this just seems like a horrible idea. Well, let's not forget that the BRILLIANT Mets ownership group was in bed with the now infamous Bernie Madoff at the time. Supposedly, the Mets felt that whatever investments they had made would yield double-digit returns, with the team in position to wind up profiting significantly if things went according to plan during the life of the deal. Spoiler alert: things did not go according to plan.
But enough about how massively stupid the Mets are, both for falling for Bernie Madoff's pyramid scheme and for pretty much any other financial decision they've ever made (again, Mets fans, I told you to look away). Instead, let's talk about how unbelievably AMAZING of a grift this is for Bobby Bonilla. The man is truly a king and whoever his agent was should go into the Hall of Fame himself for doing this well for his client.
Bobby Bonilla's final appearance for the New York Mets came in 1999, although he did play for both the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals before ultimately retiring in 2001. But despite being retired for near two decades, he's going to be collecting payments through 2035, at which point he'll be 72. SEVENTY. TWO. Seriously, imagine earning this much money during retirement? And that's not to mention how much interest he must be earning on all this cash; if he and his reps were shrewd enough to negotiate this buyout deal, it's a safe assumption that he's set up with some pretty quality investments as well. The same can definitely not be said for his former employer, a team that currently finds itself up for sale.
You know what else is cool? This isn't the only windfall that Bobby Bonilla has reaped the benefits of over the years. In 1992, Bonilla signed a deal in his first stint with the Mets which set up deferred payments of $500,000 annually for 25 years. Because he was traded to Baltimore during the life of that contract, those payments are split evenly between the Orioles and Mets. Those payments began in 2004 so, in reality, the Mets have been paying Bonilla $1,443,248.20 annually since 2011 and will be doing so through 2029. But hey, look on the bright side, Mets fans! You're getting a bargain from 2030 through 2035, right?!?
As funny as it is to poke fun at the Mets, though, there is a sad side to this story. Maybe not for Bonilla, who deserves every penny that the team is paying him, but for some of the younger pro ballplayers out there. Obviously, due to both the pandemic as well as the nasty negotiations between MLB and the Players Association to settle on the format of a shortened season, several young and veteran players alike are making less than Bonilla's $1.19 million salary in 2020. Additionally, due to the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball season, some players won't even be paid at all unless they're promoted to a Major League roster sometime after July 31st. Even then, though, these players will all be paid prorated salaries.
Obviously, the current predicament is not the fault of Bobby Bonilla, but rather of the MLB Owners, who have not done much to improve their collective image over these past few months. Nevertheless, it's quite sad that there are a number of players who will be spending time away from their families and potentially risking their health to play for less than they negotiated and deserve. Maybe the next time they sign an MLB contract, they too will look to insert some deferred payments into those deals. While they're at it, they should be sure to have Bobby Bonilla's agent work out those contracts for them.