It's Bobby Bonilla Day! Why former Met gets $1.19M every July 1 — and how it compares to Shohei Ohtani's deferrals

The calendar has turned to July 1, and that means one thing: It’s time for Mets fans everywhere to wish each other a Happy Bobby Bonilla Day! Why? On Monday, 61-year-old Bobby Bonilla will collect a check for $1,193,248.20 from the New York Mets, as he has and will every July 1 from 2011 through 2035.

Because of baseball’s salary structure, Bonilla’s annual payday is often more than some of the game’s current young stars will make in a given year.

But the Mets are not alone in the practice of handing out deferred payments to star players long after they last suited up for the team, with former MVPs and Cy Young winners among the notable names still collecting annual paychecks from their previous employers.

This past offseason, deferred money became an even bigger talking point across the sport with Shohei Ohtani opting for a structure with the Los Angeles Dodgers that will delay payments for $680 million of his $700 million megadeal. He’ll start receiving $68 million per year in 2034.

Here is everything you need to know about Bonilla’s payday, deferred money in MLB and the current players making less for the 2024 season than Bobby Bo will receive from the Mets on Saturday.

So why does Bonilla get this payday?

In 2000, the Mets agreed to buy out the remaining $5.9 million on Bonilla’s contract.

However, instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million at the time, the Mets agreed to make annual payments of nearly $1.2 million for 25 years starting July 1, 2011, including a negotiated 8% interest.

At the time, Mets ownership was invested in a Bernie Madoff account that promised double-digit returns, and the Mets were poised to make a significant profit if the Madoff account delivered — but that did not work out.

Under new owner Steve Cohen, who mentioned the possibility of celebrating Bonilla at Citi Field annually soon after taking over the team, the Mets have embraced Bonilla’s day.

How rare is this arrangement?

Bonilla last played for the Mets in 1999 and last played in the majors for the Cardinals in 2001, but he will be paid through 2035 (when he’ll be 72).

Here are some other notable deferred-money contracts, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

• Bobby Bonilla (again): A second deferred-contract plan with the Mets and Orioles pays him $500,000 a year for 25 years. Those payments began in 2004.

• Bret Saberhagen: Will receive $250,000 a year from the Mets for 25 years (payments also began in 2004; this was the inspiration for Bonilla’s deal).

• Max Scherzer: Will receive $105 million total from the Nationals that will be paid out through 2028.

• Manny Ramírez: Will collect $24.2 million total from the Red Sox through 2026.

• Ken Griffey Jr.: Will receive $3.59 million from the Reds every year through 2024 as the deferral from his nine-year, $116 million deal signed in 2000.

• Chris Davis: Davis’ arrangement with the Orioles might make him the new Bonilla, as he collects $59 million in deferred payments during a 15-year stretch that started last year and continues through 2037. Davis will receive $9.16 million in 2024 and 2025, $3.5 million from 2026 to 2032 and $1.4 million from 2033-2037.

How does Bonilla’s deal compare to Ohtani’s contract?

The biggest difference in the two deferral-heavy deals is that Bonilla’s came as the result of a buyout by the Mets for an underperforming veteran, while Ohtani’s salary arrangement was proposed by a superstar at the height of his free agency.

In his unprecedented contract, Ohtani is being paid just $2 million annually during the 10-year length of his deal with the Dodgers. From 2034-2043, Ohtani will receive $68 million per year. The parameters of the arrangement allow the Dodgers more short-term flexibility while also lowering the team’s Competitive Balance Tax burden with only the present-day value ($46 million per year) of the contract counting toward L.A.’s CBT payroll.

How Bonilla’s payment compares to 2024 MLB salaries

Because baseball’s salary structure has young players start their careers by earning just over half of Bonilla’s annual $1.19 million, the following players will be making less than Bonilla this season (listed in order of 2024 Fangraphs WAR):

Gunnar Henderson — $756,200 (6.0 WAR)

Garrett Crochet — $800,000 (3.7 WAR)

Elly De La Cruz — $742,500 (3.7 WAR)

Jarren Duran — $760,000 (3.4 WAR)

Tanner Houck — $770,000 (3.2 WAR)

Anthony Volpe — $810,100 (2.9 WAR)

Figures from ESPN Stats & Information were used throughout this story.

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