July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day

July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day: Why Mets still owe former All-Star $1.19 million a year until he’s 72

July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day

For more than a few MLB players and ex-players, July 1 is a big day on the baseball calendar. It’s the day many signing bonuses and deferred salary payments (or portions thereof) are made. Must be fun checking that direct deposit each year, huh? Former All-Star Bobby Bonilla, who last played in 2001, has become the face of the July 1 payday. 

As part of a deferred salary arrangement, the New York Mets have paid Bonilla a touch more than $1.19 million ($1,193,248.20 to be exact) each July 1 since 2011, and will continue doing so until 2035. 2035! Bonilla, now 58, will be 72 when the last payment is made.

The Mets signed Bonilla to a five-year contract worth $29 million in 1991 that was the richest contract in team sports at the time. He spent the first three-and-a-half seasons of that contract with New York before being traded away. Bonilla won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997 and was later traded back to the Mets as part of Florida’s post-championship fire sale.

July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day

The Mets released Bonilla in January 2000 but were still on the hook for his $5.9 million salary that season. Believing they were poised to make a significant profit through their investments with Bernie Madoff, Mets ownership instead agreed to defer Bonilla’s salary with 8 percent interest and spread it across 25 years from 2011-35.

Well, the Madoff ponzi scheme fell apart, and Bonilla’s $5.9 million swelled to $29.8 million from 2000-11. That $29.8 million divided by 25 years equals the annual $1.19 million payment. CBS Sports created a bobblehead to commemorate Bonilla’s annual deferred payments:

July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day

After new Mets owner Steve Cohen purchased the franchise in 2020, he suggested that the team could have an annual Bobby Bonilla celebration at the ballpark, complete with an oversized check. That plan, however, doesn’t appear like it will be happening in 2021.

Bonilla’s deferred salary with the Mets is the most famous July 1 payment in baseball, hands down, but it is not the only July 1 payment in the game. In fact, Bonilla himself has a second deferred salary agreement with the Orioles. Baltimore owes him $500,000 a year from 2004-28. July 1 is a good day in the Bonilla household.

Here are a few other notable deferred salary payment plans:

  • The Braves have paid Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter roughly $1.2 million each year since 1991. This year is the final year of Sutter’s deferred salary plan. The team also owes him a $9.1 million lump sum payment in 2022. 
  • The Reds have paid Ken Griffey Jr. approximately $3.6 million each year since 2009 and his last payment comes in 2021.
  • The Red Sox have paid Manny Ramirez approximately $2 million each year since 2011 and will continue to do so through 2026.
  • The White Sox have paid Paul Konerko $1 million each year since 2014 and his last payment comes this year.
  • The Mets have paid Bret Saberhagen $250,000 each year since 2004 and will continue to do so through 2028.

The Nationals tend to load up their largest contracts with salary deferrals. They’re paying Rafael Soriano roughly $2 million annually through 2024, Max Scherzer is owed $15 million a year from 2022-28, and Stephen Strasburg has approximately $114 million in deferred salary coming to him through 2029. Not bad work if you can get it.

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