Thursday, June 30, 2011

The joy of deferred contracts

Two winters ago, during the run-up to the Joe Mauer contract extension, Jim Pohlad said there would be no deferred money in any contract. You have to pay the money at some point, he said, and it might as well be during the time that the player is providing the services contracted for.

That attitude is not universal around baseball, and this week has given us two examples of teams that have significant deferred money pending -- and are in financial trouble.

$21 million for this? Really?
First, we have the Los Angeles Dodgers, who filed Monday for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The list of unsecured creditors is dominated by current and former players, led by Manny Ramirez. The King of Female Fertility Drugs has $21 million coming. Andruw Jones, now two teams removed from his tenure in L.A., is owed $11 million. Marquis Grissom, who last played for the Dodgers almost a decade ago, is owed $2.7 million.

Then there's the marvelous saga of Bobby Bonilla and the New York Mets. Back in 2000, the Mets brought out the $5.9 million owed for the final season of his contract.

The buyout put off the pay off for 11 years -- but charged the Mets 8 percent interest. As a result, the Mets, beginning on Friday, are to pay Bonilla slightly less than $1.2 million. Every year for the next 25 years. Over the next quarter-century that deferred money will total more than $29 million.

What the linked-to Wall Street Journal story doesn't get into is how the Mets figured they were going to pay for that. They invested the money ... with Bernie Madoff. Yes, the Bonilla deferred money is part of why the trustee in the giant Ponzi scheme is after $1 billion from the Mets owners.

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