Bobby Bonilla Contract Remains Part of Baseball Folklore

Published on July 1st, 2021 6:22 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel



A legendary baseball contract, which includes a touch of controversy, is celebrated today. On July 1st of every year, the New York Mets write a check to Bobby Bonilla for $1,193,248.20.

This arrangement will continue through 2035, when Bonilla will be 72 years old.

The Bobby Bonilla contract remains part of baseball folklore, as it weaves together a number of incredible stories - the sadsack New York Mets franchise, the now-deceased Bernie Madoff and more.

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In 1991, the New York Mets signed Bobby Bonilla to a 5-year, $29 million contract.

This was the biggest deal in Major League Baseball at the time.

Things didn't really work out, and Bonilla would be traded to the Baltimore Orioles before the end of his deal. Bonilla would subsequently play for the Orioles, Marlins and Dodgers before returning to the Mets via a trade in 1998.

After underwhelming in 1999, the Mets decided to release Bonilla. The problem? They still owed him $5.9 million.

The Mets owner at the time, Fred Wilpon, was heavily involved with Bernie Madoff. Madoff, as we now know, was running a Ponzi scheme and promising Wilpon 10% a year returns.

Wilpon was short on money so Bonilla's manager had a beautiful idea - why not defer Bonilla's salary for a decade while paying him 8% interest? That way, Bonilla would get a nice payout, and Wilpon could leave his money invested with Madoff, where he thought he was earning 10% a year.

This scheme, which Wilpon agreed to, saw Bonilla receive a total of $29.8 million from the time period of 2011-2035. Divide this amount by the number of years, and you get an annual payment of $1,193,248.20, which Bonilla receives every July 1st.

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This deal would garner a great deal of controversy when Bernie Madoff was revealed to be a fraud, though the deal was ok'd by Major League Baseball at the time, and Bonilla continues to receive his money.

In the end, this deal was a masterstroke by Bonilla and his manager, who both read the room perfectly in extracting the maximum amount from owner Fred Wilpon.

Now the new owner of the franchise, Steven Cohen, is the one writing the checks, though he laughs about it, and has even suggested a "Bobby Bonilla Contract Day" on July 1st of every year.

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