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 Thursday, 58-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 a leading American League MVP candidate and some potential 2021 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 2021 season than Bobby Bo will receive from the Mets on Thursday.
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.
This year, under new owner Steve Cohen, who mentioned the possibility of celebrating Bonilla at Citi Field annually soon after taking over the team in November, the Mets seem ready to embrace Bonilla’s day — as the team’s tweet on Wednesday night shows.
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 2021 salaries
Because baseball’s salary structure has young players start their careers by earning about 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 2021 WAR total (through Monday), courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information.
• Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (4.2 WAR): $605K
• Bryan Reynolds (3.5 WAR): $601K
• Jake Cronenworth (3.4 WAR): $585K
• Cedric Mullins (3.3 WAR): $577K
• John Means (3.2 WAR): $593K
• Bo Bichette (2.8 WAR): $588K
• Trevor Rogers (2.8 WAR): $575K
• Adolis Garcia (2.7 WAR): $575K
• Ian Anderson (2.6 WAR): $575K
• Pablo Lopez (2.6 WAR): $595K
• Casey Mize (2.6 WAR): $574K