Bobby Bonilla hasn’t played for the New York Mets in 16 years, but on July 1, he was handed a $1.2 million paycheck from the team and it’s all thanks to the most absurd contract in all of sports.
Bonilla is scheduled to receive a $1.2 million payment on the first day of July for every year until 2035, a payment plan he and the team agreed on in 2000.
The owners of the Mets, the Wilpon family, crafted a 25-year interest-accruing payment plan that was meant to spread out the hurt from swallowing the former All-Star’s contract. But instead it’s put the team in the strange situation of paying the now 52-year-old every year until he’s in his early 70s.
As the New York Daily News explained, the contract was a brilliant stroke on Bobby Bonilla’s part.
“Bonilla’s representatives wanted the Mets to match the U.S. Prime Rate of interest at the time, which was 8.5 percent, but the sides settled on eight percent. Today’s Prime Rate is 3.25 percent.”
“Bobby’s a very smart person, and he understands the value of income,” Dennis Gilbert, Bonilla’s former agent, told the Wall Street Journal in 2010.
Of course, the Mets didn’t do themselves any favors with the structure of Bobby Bonilla’s contract. As CBS Los Angeles noted, the team’s owners had invested with Bernie Madoff and were hit with big penalties afterward, a situation that actually drove up Bonilla’s payment even more.
“The Mets, for some reason, decided it was much more economically sound to defer Bonilla’s payment for a decade. Because of the organization’s financial issues pending from the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, the Mets held out paying Bonilla for ten years and picked up payment in 2011 with an annual salary of $1.2 million, plus plenty of interest.”
The contract has helped Bobby Bonilla remain among the better-paid players on the Mets for a number of years, especially in the cost-cutting that came after the Madoff scandal. This year, for example, he makes more then pitching phenoms Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey combined, and in some years, he’s been among the top-paid outfielders.
While the contract may get some snickers, especially on the annual July 1 payment day, getting rid of Bobby Bonilla ended up being a net positive for the team. They were able to free up money to make some key acquisitions, including ace Mike Hampton and outfielder Derek Bell, pickups that helped them reach the World Series in 2000.
[Image via Getty Images/Al Bello]