Fernando Tatis Jr.'s 14-year, $340 million contract with the San Diego Padres might be long, but it has nothing on Bobby Bonilla's deal with the New York Mets. This will make you feel even older — and make Bonilla's agent look way smarter — but Bonilla will actually still be getting paid by the Mets after Tatis' contract expires.
How is that possible? In 2000, the Mets decided to buy out Bonilla's $5.9 million contract. Instead of taking a lump sum, Bonilla's agent — Dennis Gilbert — negotiated a deal that would pay Bonilla over multiple years at an 8 percent interest rate. The end result of the deal means Bonilla is being paid $1.16 million by the Mets every July 1, which has unofficially been referred to as Bobby Bonilla Day by dedicated baseball fans.
Those payments started in 2011, and will run through 2035. Tatis' deal with the Padres will end in 2034.
Bobby Bonilla's contract continues to amaze 🤯 pic.twitter.com/8t5UmOWxAt
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) February 18, 2021
It may feel extremely wrong, but it's true. Despite not playing in MLB since 2001, Bonilla will still be getting paid in 2035.
Deferred contracts have become more common in MLB
At the time of Bonilla's buyout, deferred payments were a rarity in MLB. While Bonilla's deal is seen as a massive win for him, more teams have added deferred payments to deals in recent years. On Thursday, the Oakland Athletics signed reliever Trevor Rosenthal to a one-year, $11 million deal that will include deferred payments. When Bryce Harper was a free agent, the Washington Nationals reportedly offered him a deal that would pay Harper until he was 60.
Why would teams willingly agree to pay players long after their careers end? By deferring money, teams can keep costs lower during a player's contract. On top of that, ownership can change, meaning the person who signs off on the deferred deal may never see it through. That's exactly what happened with Bonilla and the Mets. Fred Wilpon agreed to the Bonilla buyout, but Steve Cohen will be signing Bonilla's checks from 2021 to 2035.
While Bonilla will be paid longer, don't feel too bad for Tatis. He's still going to make $340 million, far more than Bonilla ever made even after you include all the deferred money he's owed.
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