Bobby Bonilla gets paid more money from the Mets than more than half of last year's actual Mets players did in salary, and he hasn't played for them since 1999. Here's the how and why about "Bobby Bonilla Day" when the Mets pay him $1,193,248.20 every July 1 until 2035.
Mets reunite with Bobby Bonilla
After a disappointing first stint with the Mets in the early 1990s when he was the highest-paid player in baseball, Bobby Bonilla returned to Queens in November 1998 in a trade with the Dodgers for relief pitcher Mel Rojas. Between his two tenures with the Mets, he played for the Orioles, Marlins and Dodgers, winning the 1997 World Series with Florida.
Bonilla falls flat in second stint
In the lone season of his second go-round, Bonilla played in only 60 games, the fewest of any season in his career. He hit .160 with four home runs and 18 RBIs.
A series of incidents and controversies marred Bonilla's tenure and strained his relationship with Mets management. The final sign of Bonilla's impending departure came when he spent the end of the last game of the 1999 NLCS playing cards with Rickey Henderson in the clubhouse.
Deferring Bonilla's contract
For the Mets to get rid of Bonilla, they would be forced to eat all or some of his $5.9 million. Instead, both parties agreed to defer all payment with interest to 2011. Instead of $5.9 million, Bonilla receives about $1.2 million each year until 2035. Over the 25 years of payments, Bonilla will make more than he did on his five-year deal with the Mets from the early '90s that made him the highest-paid player in baseball at the time.
The Bret Saberhagen deal
This wasn't the first time the Mets had made a deal like this. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bonilla's agent said he had worked on a similar deal with the Mets and Bret Saberhagen to pay the former pitcher $250,000 per year for 25 years starting in 2004.
Bernie Madoff's connection
Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, pictured here with Mets owner Fred Wilpon at Shea Stadium in 1995, played as much a role as anyone in the Bonilla deal. Mets ownership was receiving large returns on their investments with Madoff greater than the 8-percent interest they would pay Bonilla, making it worth their while to defer payment.
Building the 2000 NL Champions
Bonilla's departure was mostly about getting rid of a problem, but it also created money and roster space to add a few key pieces to the 2000 team that would win the NL pennant. Mike Hampton was the most important addition, earning $5.75 million in 2000 while putting together the best season of his career.
Making the Wright deal
Things only get better for Mets fans when you look down the timeline. After signing Hampton with money previously set aside for Bonilla, the Mets let him go to Colorado for a massive contract that he never lived up to. The Mets received a compensatory pick for their trouble, taking none other than former captain David Wright.
Bonilla vs. 2019 Mets
On Bobby Bonilla Day in 2019, 14 players on the Mets' 25-man roster earned less than Bonilla for the season. That list of players included All-Stars Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, shortstop Amed Rosario, closer Edwin Diaz and outfielder Brandon Nimmo.