What is Bobby Bonilla Day? Explaining the New York Mets’ ongoing pay saga

Major League Baseball may be associated with the 4th of July, but another holiday in early July holds special significance for a significant portion of baseball fans.

That day is July 1, also known as “Bobby Bonilla Day”. It’s the day the New York Mets pay their annual deferred fees to former player Bobby Bonilla – who last played an MLB game in October 2001.

Bonilla was owed $5.9 million in 1999 when the Mets offloaded the aging player and bought out the rest of his contract. However, instead of paying him an advance, then-Mets owner Fred Wilpon made a deal with Bonilla’s camp. The Mets will pay Bonilla in installments with annual interest each year from 2011-2035. Those installments would ultimately total about $30 million, which is far more than what Bonilla owed, according to ESPN,

But there were also several benefits for the Mets to pursue this strategy — at least, that’s how it appeared at the time. The Mets used the $5.9 million to create an annuity with a securities investor with whom they were doing heavy business at the time that would pay them back in the form of annual dividends. By doing so, they also freed that money from their payroll for purposes of MLB bylaws, meaning they could use it to sign other players without adding it to the total roster payroll, against whom the league could potentially trade. Can be taxed as such.

The investor with whom they had created the account was known to return those dividends with high interest, so the Mets themselves thought they would make millions of dollars in profit during the deal, even though they paid Bonilla all but one. Decrease the money

Just one problem – that investor’s name was Bernie Madoff, and in 2009, Madoff convicted of running the largest Ponzi scheme fraud in history and sentenced to 150 years in prison, In other words, the profits the Mets were hoping for in their Bonilla strategy likely never came. Fallout from Madoff’s crimes left the Mets financially devastated., whose dealings with the corrupt money manager went far beyond their Bonilla deal. The Mets struggled financially for the remainder of Wilpon’s tenure as owner until the team was sold in late 2020 to current owner Steve Cohen.

Given the background of Madoff’s involvement, Wilpon’s struggles in the years following his ownership, and the general drama on and off the field that the Mets still can’t escape today, “Bobby Bonilla Day” has become an ironic anti-holiday for those fans. For those who want to celebrate the fact that the Mets are now paying the 60-year-old — whose last MLB appearance was nearly 22 years ago — about $1.2 million each July 1 through 2035.

Absolutely, As told by the people of For the Win, Bonilla is hardly alone in a largely deferred contract. Several major MLB contracts over the years have included large amounts of deferred money installments that extend nearly two decades into the future, such as Freddy Freeman’s deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the extension of current Mets star Francisco Lindor. Of course, these postponements were agreed upon when both players were still at their peak and not at the end of their careers like Bonilla.

Bonilla was not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. He made six All-Star teams and won three Silver Slugger Awards in the 1980s and 1990s. Pittsburgh Pirates fans probably remember Bonilla as one of the best hitters on the playoff-competitive teams of the ’90s, which also included a young Barry Bonds. Miami Marlins fans will likely remember him as a key part of the team that won the franchise’s first World Series title in 1997.

But for Mets fans and baseball fans in general, Bonilla will — appropriately or not — be celebrated every year on the day he becomes about $1 million richer.

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