Let’s give Bobby Bonilla some credit. When he was at the height of his MLB career, Bonilla was a dominant player for the New York Mets. Back in 2001, the superstar salaries of $20 million per year were unthinkable.
What could you do to guarantee yourself a nice pension after retirement?
For Bonilla, he decided to extend his contract out until 2035. That means he keeps getting $1.2 million per year as his “salary,” although he hasn’t played in an MLB game since 2001.
You can celebrate Bobby Bonilla Day every July 1 when he gets paid.
Why Did the Bonilla Contract Happen?
The Mets wanted to get rid of Bonilla. They also owed almost $6 million guaranteed on his contract in 1999. They could have paid him outright at the time, but his agent negotiated a payment deferment with an 8% interest rate.
That’s how $6 million turns into almost $30 million.
Why did the Mets think this was a great deal? One of the owners, Fred Wilpon, was part of the Ponzi scheme started by Bernie Madoff. Wilpon thought the returns of his investments would offset the losses from Bonilla’s deferral.
Of course, the Mets never got those Madoff returns. Bonilla still got himself paid.
Even though Bonilla played his final games with the St. Louis Cardinals, the payment guarantee from his Mets contract is still an organizational responsibility.
What Are Today’s Biggest MLB Contracts?
When you think about questionable MLB contracts, Alex Rodriguez comes to mind. The Rangers signed him to a 10-year, $252 million deal in 2001. When A-Rod went to the Yankees, he got a 10-year, $275 million contract in 2008.
Bryce Harper might be the biggest gamble. He signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. Manny Machado got a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres in the same year.
MLB baseball used to be about the kid next door with skills earning his way to the big leagues, showing his stuff, and making a modest living. With bloated TV contracts, inflated ticket prices, and free agency, the game is ruined forever.
Thanks, Bobby Bonilla. We all hope you enjoy your pension.