Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bobby Bonilla, 1996 Leaf #120

If any of you ever become a general manager for a Major League Baseball team, here's a free bit of advice: don't ever agree to defer money in a player contract. Case in point: Bobby Bonilla.

The first union between the New York Mets and Bonilla was an unhappy one, as they signed him to a five-year, $29 million contract prior to the 1992 season and did not receive the production they were expecting. On the field, he hit .270 with 95 home runs in three and one-half years, good but not great. The team tanked, and he clashed with the media and team officials. When the Orioles came calling in the summer of 1995 and were willing to part with five-tool outfield prospect Alex Ochoa, the Mets gladly washed their hands of Bobby Bo.

Removed from the glare of the Big Apple, Bobby picked up the pace a bit. He batted .300 and drove in 162 runs in one and one-half years in Baltimore, then went to Florida as a free agent and collected 96 RBI for the Marlins, who won the World Series in 1997. The Fish dumped him the following May in their post-championship fire sale, and he showed significant signs of decline: .249 AVG, 11 HR, 45 RBI in 100 games with the Marlins and Dodgers. So that offseason, Los Angeles unloaded him to...the Mets?

Yep, New York welcomed back the same player who'd dissatisfied them earlier in the decade, only now he was 36, on the downhill slope, and he was still making $6 million a year. While the Mets made it to the postseason in 1999, it had very little to do with Bonilla, who hit .160 in 60 games, feuded with manager Bobby Valentine, and openly quit on the team in the NLCS, famously playing cards with Rickey Henderson in the clubhouse during an 11-inning loss in Game Six. The Mets were so desperate to be rid of Bobby a second time that they waived him the following spring and agreed to eat the $5.9 million left on his contract via deferred payments over a 25-year period. What's the big deal?

The first payment is due next year, and there's this little thing called interest. The math involved is out of my pay grade, but essentially Bobby and the Mets front office agreed on an eight percent rate. It's been a decade since the settlement, and that interest is nothing to sneeze at. The Wall Street Journal reports that his annual salary will be $1,193,248.20. He'll receive these payments right on through 2035, and will be 72 years old when he finally comes off the Mets' payroll. The total damage is $29,831,205, which makes $5.9 million sound reasonable.

Just who could have been short-sighted and oblivious enough to sign off on such a deal? If you guessed former Mets GM and disgraced ESPN bobblehead Steve Phillips, step to the front of the line.


William said...

The Mets are the perpetual All-Star reserve team from 5 years ago. They got a washed up Bobby Bo, Mo Vaughn, Pedro Martinez, Shawn Green, Delgado, Beltran, Derek Bell, Rickey Henderson, Mike Hampton, Roberto Alomar, Tom Glavine, K-Rod?...I bet right now there's a front office staffer trying to get Travis Hafner for $12 million per year.

Rounding Thirty 3rd said...

Wow, Bobby Bo ends up looking quite smart, quite a contrast to his persona.

Another interesting Orioles aside, little Bobby Bo was signed out of Bronx High School as a free agent by none other than the beloved Syd Thrift.

Kevin said...

William - To be fair, Hampton wasn't washed up when they acquired him. So they're batting about .100. Oh, but you forgot Sheffield.

Tim - He also broke his leg in a collision with Bip Roberts. I guess he got Bipped.