It's one of baseball's most storied pastimes: Bobby Bonilla Day. July 1 annually marks the day in which the New York Mets pay Bonilla $1.19 million once every year as part of a deferred payment arrangement that lasts until 2035. When the final payment is made, Bonilla will be 72.
The deal started in 1991, when the Mets -- then owned by the Wilpon family -- signed Bonilla to a five-year deal that was worth $29 million, which was the richest contract in professional sports at the time. Bonilla spent the first three and a half seasons of the contract with the Mets before being traded to the Florida Marlins. The veteran was traded back to the Mets when the Marlins tore down their 1997 World Series squad.
Bonilla ended up being released in January 2000, but still had to be paid his $5.9 million salary for that season. At the time, New York believed that they were going to make a significant profit from the team's investments with Bernie Madoff. Because of that belief, Mets ownership deferred Bonilla's salary with eight percent interest and ended up spreading it across 25 years from 2011 to 2035.
Madoff's Ponzi scheme didn't exactly work out in the Mets' favor and the deferred payments ended up totaling $29.8 million. That $29.8 million is spread out over 25 years, which comes out to the $1.19 million annual payment.
As bad as the team's decision turned out to be, the Mets are far from the only franchise that has deferred payments on players. Let's take a look at some other players that are collected deferred payments.
In January 2023, star third baseman Rafael Devers signed a massive 10-year, $331 contract extension to remain with the Boston Red Sox through 2033. However, the Red Sox will be paying Devers a lot longer than that. That's because Boston is deferring $75 million of Devers' contract, which will amount to $7.5 million annually. Devers will be paid two installments of $3.75 million apiece every Feb. 1 and Nov. 30 through 2043. The Red Sox star will be 46 when the installments are all paid out.
Ken Griffey Jr.
July 1 may be known as Bobby Bonilla Day, but the Cincinnati Reds don't exactly love the day either. Back in 2000, the Reds acquired slugger Ken Griffey Jr. in a trade with the Seattle Mariners and quickly signed him to a nine-year, $112.5 million deal. As part of a deferred payment arrangement, an estimated 50 percent of Griffey's contract was deferred from 2009 until 2024, so Griffey receives $3.59 million per year. Griffey's tenure with the Reds was riddled with injuries and never lived up to the success that he had with the Mariners.
In 2000, the Boston Red Sox signed Manny Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million deal. As a part of the deal, there were $32 million in deferred payments that are owed to Ramirez, who will earn $1.968 million per year from 2011 to 2026. Ramirez will be 54 by the time the payment arrangement is complete. The star slugger did help bring a World Series title to the Red Sox in 2004, so perhaps the deal was worth it for Boston
Outfielder Matt Holliday was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2009 season. In January 2010, the Cardinals signed Holliday to a seven-year, $120 million contract with $15 million of the deal being deferred. Beginning in 2020, Holliday began receiving an annual payment of $1.5 million and will receive payments until 2029. Holliday helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 2011 and retirement in 2018
The Colorado Rockies signed slugger Todd Helton to a two-year contract extension towards the end of his career in 2010. As part of Helton's deal, he is scheduled to receive $13.1 million in deferred payments from 2014 until 2023. Helton will be 49 by the time that the deferred payments are complete. Of course, Helton is the Rockies' all-time leader in home runs, hits, RBIs and runs, so it's not surprising that the team took care of their star player even in his later years.
In 2015, the Washington Nationals signed ace Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract in free agency. As a part of that contract, Scherzer is slated to receive deferred payments totaling $15 million from 2022 to 2028. Scherzer signed with the Mets, so is getting paid by two NL East teams. Not too shabby.
Let's just say that the New York Mets didn't exactly make the most sound financial decisions. Much like Bobby Bonilla, Bret Saberhagen hasn't played for the franchise since the 1990s, but still manages to get paid by the Mets. In December 1991, Saberhagen was traded to the Mets and his tenure with the team was disappointing for the most part. As part of his contract with the Mets, Saberhagen will receive $250,000 per year in deferred payments from 2005 until 2029.
After being traded from the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis led the MLB with 53 home runs in 2013. Davis was signed to an insane seven-year, $161 million contract by the Orioles and, looking at it now, it's one of the worst deals that the league has ever seen. As a part of the contract, Davis will receive $3.5 million annually in deferred payments from 2023 to 2032. In addition, Davis will receive $1.4 million a year from 2033 to 2037 and will be 51 by the time the payments are satisfied.
That's right, it's not just MLB franchises that hand out these types of contracts. Kevin Garnett is one of the greatest players in NBA history. In addition, he did pretty well for himself from a financial standpoint. The Boston Celtics are paying Garnett $5 million per year until 2024, which will net him an additional $35 million even after his career is over. The Celtics did win an NBA title and Garnett was a big reason for that. However, Garnett retired in 2016, so it wasn't exactly a sound financial decision for Boston.