Bobby Bonilla Day: How infamous contract led to the New York Mets landing franchise icon David Wright

·2 min read

July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day, an annual celebration of the former Major League Baseball player receiving $1.19 million from the New York Mets, a deferred payment from a contract he signed more than 20 years ago.

Bonilla played just 60 games for the Mets in 1999 and rather than paying him the $5.9 million he was owed for 2000, the club agreed to make yearly payments of $1.19 million for 25 years – including 8% interest – starting in July 2011.

But why did the Mets do that?

Coming off a trip to the NLCS in 1999, New York had World Series hopes – and $5.9 million was a sizable salary back then, with the league's median payrolls in the $50-60 million range.

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Saving that money in 2000 by dumping Bonilla, the Mets were able to upgrade in the offseason, trading for starting pitcher Mike Hampton, coming off a 22-4 season with the Houston Astros.

Hampton's salary? $5.75 million.

The lefty won 15 games with a 3.14 ERA in 2000 and was named NLCS MVP as the Mets reached the World Series for the first time in 14 years, falling to the rival Yankees in five games.

Bobby Bonilla in 1999 and David Wright in 2018.
Bobby Bonilla in 1999 and David Wright in 2018.

The deal for Hampton actually came together two weeks after Ken Griffey Jr., then with the Seattle Mariners, declined a trade to the Mets. Two of the players who were sent to Houston for Hampton – Octavio Dotel and Roger Cedeno – would have gone to the Seattle in the deal for Griffey.

Hampton would leave the Mets after one season, signing an eight year, $121 million deal with the Rockies, citing the Colorado school system. ("I've got a son that's working on his master's, and my other son's on the dean's list ... so I guess the school system worked out all right," Hampton joked 20 years later.)

Sure enough, Hampton's departure gave the Mets a compensation pick in the 2001 draft.

With that selection, the 38th overall, New York selected third baseman David Wright.

Wright went on to become a seven-time All-Star for the Mets, the team's captain and the franchise's all-time leader in hits and RBI. He played 1,585 games for the Mets between 2004 and 2018, finishing in the top 10 of NL MVP voting four times.

Now with the benefit of hindsight, was turning $5.9 million into almost $30 million of debt a smart move? Probably not!

Still, there's some silver lining to being the punchline every summer.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bobby Bonilla Day: Contract helped Mets land club legend David Wright

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