The curious case of Bobby Bonilla

Bobby Bonilla last stepped foot on a baseball field in 2001, when he appeared in 91 games for the St. Louis Cardinals and batted .213/.308/.339. Despite having not played baseball in 15 years, he still collects a $1,193,248.20 check every July from the New York Mets.

The reason that he is still collecting money from a team that he last played for in 1999 is because after he left the team, they still owed him his 2000 contract money, which came out to $5.9 million. The Mets didn’t want to be on the hook for that money, so they struck a deal with his agent to defer the payments for 10 years, at an interest rate of 8%. When it came time for the payments to begin in 2011, the total amount came out to $29.8 million.

The money isn’t paid out all at once; it is paid out in annual installments totaling $1,193,248.20. The Mets do eventually get to stop making payments to him, although it won’t come until 2035.

Bonilla’s case is not unique. The Mets also owe Bret Saberhagen $250,000 per year through 2029, while the Arizona Diamondbacks are paying Bernard Gilkey annually through next year because when the Mets traded him to Arizona in 1998, the Diamondbacks took on the remainder of his contract, which deferred a total of $5 million.

In a new feature for ESPN, Bonilla’s agent, Dennis Gilbert, said that Bonilla also gets $500,000 from the Mets every year from his first deal with the Mets, which spanned from 1992-1996. Those payments will continue through 2023.

One thing that is working in Bonilla’s favor is that by deferring the payments, he avoided paying state income tax in New York. He now lives in Florida, which has no state income tax. New York’s state tax rate is currently 8.82 percent, meaning that Bonilla is saving over $105,000 in taxes.

Not too bad for a person who hasn’t stepped foot on a baseball field in 15 years.

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