Why the NY Mets Make an Annual $1.2M Payment to Bobby Bonilla on July 1

Bonilla gets paid more than a million per year despite not playing in MLB since 2001

Why NY Mets Make Annual $1.2M Payment to Bobby Bonilla
Former Met Bobby Bonilla looks on during a game against the Expos in 1999.
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By Evan Bleier / July 1, 2020 10:13 am

When Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme went up in smoke in December of 2008, $550 million in assets that belonged to the owners of the New York Mets, the Wilpons, vanished along with it. By virtue of the amount lost alone, getting involved with Madoff qualifies as the worst financial decision in the history of a franchise that has made a lot of ’em.

But right behind the Madoff investment is the deal the Mets are making their annual $1.19 million payment on today: the Bobby Bonilla contract

Bonilla hasn’t picked up a bat in an MLB game since 2001, but he’s been collecting more than million dollars on July 1 every year since 2011 after the Wilpons worked out a 25-year deferred compensation deal with the six-time All-Star after the team released him in 1999. 

Since the Mets owed Bonilla $5.9 million when they released him but thought they were in a position to contend for a World Series and wanted to invest in their roster, New York agreed to make $29.8 million in deferred payments to him through 2035 — at eight percent interest.

Now 57, the Bronx native will be 72 when the contract his agent Dennis Gilbert worked out with the team expires.

As Gilbert explained to USA Today in 2018, one of the reasons the Wilpons signed off on the deal is they expected to be rolling in the dough thanks to their affiliation with Madoff.

“I know Bobby is happy about it, but we don’t talk about it much,’’ Gilbert told the publication. “I don’t need his salary to remind me of my affection for Bobby Bonilla. I’m just happy that he’s happy. It’s come up a couple of times when talking with the Mets, but not once have the Mets said anything remotely negative. It’s just unfortunate they got hood-winked in the Madoff deal. Otherwise, it would have been a win-win for both sides.’’

As is, it is clearly a loss for a team that is still looking for a new owner and is paying Bonilla more than it does rising stars Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.

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