July 1st is a day most of us spend firing up the grill and sunbathing by the pool. Bobby Bonilla on the other hand trades in the grill for a bottle of Dom Perignon because the Mets have been paying him $1.19 million every July 1st since 2011. And he hasn’t played in the MLB since 2001. And hasn’t played for the Mets since 1999.
No, Bobby isn’t blackmailing the organization. And no, he isn’t in their front office. Or on the coaching staff. Or a scout. So, why is he getting paid $1.19 million you ask? Well he and his agent got him the best payout deal ever after Bobby played just one season with the Mets in 1999. To understand how this happened let’s start with the 1998 offseason.
Setting The Scene
After the 1998 season, the Mets were looking for a player that would push them over the edge and get them into the playoffs for the first time since 1988. They went 88 and 74 in ’98 and knew it wouldn’t take much more to get them into October. Enter Bonilla, who over 13 seasons in the big leagues had decent career averages:
Looks pretty solid, right? The Mets thought so too. They acquired Bonilla in a trade with the Dodgers for Mel Rojas in November ’98 with high expectations from the aging veteran. Unfortunately, Bonilla wasn’t ready for the bright lights of New York and never became the player the Mets hoped for (to say the least). Bonilla’s line dropped in 1999 with the Mets: Not ideal.
The Bobby Bonilla Payout
After the ’99 season, which ended with Bonilla playing cards with Ricky Henderson in the clubhouse during a game 6 loss to the Braves in the NLCS, the Mets wanted to move on. They released Bonilla, who was still owed $5.9 million.
Bonilla and his agent, Dennis Gilbert, knew the payout was required before the Mets could move on. So they went to the Mets with an idea: the Mets could defer the $5.9 million payment for a decade, but would then pay him $1.19 million per year from 2011 to 2035.
Fred Wilpon, the owner of the Mets who is known for making great financial decisions like investing with Bernie Madoff, said yes. Wilpon wanted to use that $5.9 million in 2000 to get another great player for the team. That player ended up being Mike Hampton and his $5.75 million salary, who the Mets acquired right before they deferred Bonilla’s payment. Hampton went 15-10 in 2000 and helped the Mets get to the World Series, which they obviously lost to the Yankees.
And thus, we will celebrate Bobby Bonilla day for another 17 years. So throw an extra dog on the grill for Bobby and don’t be afraid to ask your boss for that raise on Monday. They might just surprise you and say yes.