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Shohei Ohtani, Bobby Bonilla, other insane deferred contracts throughout MLB history

Bobby Bonilla previously held the title for the most infamous deferred deal until Shohei Ohtani's, but there are plenty others that deserve recognition.

In an unprecedented move, Shohei Ohtani has opted to defer over 97% of his contract until after it expires in 2033.

The two-way superstar inked a 10-year, $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, by far the most ever in North American sports. That is jaw-dropping enough.

But when news broke that Ohtani would defer $680 million of it until after the contract ends, jaws then hit the floor. This means Ohtani will be making just $2 million per year for his never-before-seen baseball talent (we still think he'll be alright off that wage, though).


To be clear, Ohtani will still be a $46 million cap hit to the Dodgers, based on the calculations of the deferred payments, so it's not like the Dodgers are totally fleecing everybody here.

But of course, Ohtani is hardly the first person to ink a deal in which he'll be paid long after the contract is complete. Here are some infamous deferred deals.

The Hall of Famer has not played in the major leagues since 2010, yet he was still the fourth-highest paid Cincinnati Reds player in 2023.

Griffey was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Reds in 2000, where he signed a nine-year, $116.5 million deal. However, that deal included $57.5 million deferred payments at a 4% interest beginning in 2009.

So, in each year since, the Reds have paid Griffey $3,593,750. Next year will be the final year Griffey earns that nice paycheck from the Reds.

In fact, Mike Moustakas was owed $7 million by Cincinnati this year after being released by the team before the season started. So, the Reds paid over $10 million to two players to not play for them.

After his 47-homer, 117-RBI campaign in 2015, the Baltimore Orioles re-signed the then-29-year-old to a seven-year deal worth $161 million, but it became arguably the worst contract in MLB history, and it looks even worse after his retirement.

From 2017 to 2020, he failed to play in 130 games in each season, and he hit just .185 with a .615 OPS, striking out in 37.4% of his plate appearances. In 2019, he went on a 0-for-54 slump. He hung up the cleats in 2021 after missing that entire season with multiple injuries.

The Orioles decided to defer the final $17 million of his contract, but his original contract already included deferred payments.


So, the Orioles will pay Davis $9.16 million per year from 2023 to 2025, followed by payments of $3.5 million from 2023 to 2032, and then from 2033 to 2037, Davis will make $1.4 million a year.

Oh, and according to MetsMerized, the O's also have to pay Alex Cobb $1.8 million a year until 2032. He hasn't played for them since 2020.

Max Scherzer is currently being paid by not one, not two, but three teams.

When Scherzer signed his $210 million deal with the Washington Nationals ahead of the 2015 season, half of that was deferred until after the deal expired in 2021. So, beginning last year and lasting through 2028, the Nats will pay Scherzer $15 million per year.

Scherzer signed a three-year pact with the New York Mets, but when they traded him to the Texas Rangers at this year's trade deadline, they agreed to pay roughly 75% of the remaining $58 million on his deal while the Rangers would handle the rest.

And as for Strasburg, the Nationals inked Strasburg to a then-record $245 million deal in 2019. Since then, he's made just eight starts due to various injuries, and the contract finally ends in 2026.


Well, $80 million of that is deferred in which he'll make over $26 million in each year from 2027 to 2029. They also will begin giving him a separate $10 million payment every July 1 starting in 2024 and lasting through 2030.

Here's what you all have been waiting for. And yes, we made it last to disprove the notion that the Mets are the only team to pull something like this off (and to show that some have it much worse).

Long story short (feel free to read the whole story here), instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million remaining on his contract, the Mets and Bonilla negotiated a deal to make annual payments of $1,193,248.20 every July 1 from 2011 to 2035, when Bonilla will be 72, which included a negotiated 8% interest.

The Mets have Bernie Madoff to thank here. Then-owner Fred Wilpon had invested with Madoff and expected double-digit returns on the deal, which did not happen and Wilpon wound up with the short end of the stick. 

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the deal, the main one being it was an abomination for the Mets. But some of it worked out in their favor.

Contrary to popular belief, Bonilla was not a bust with the Mets. Plus, by forgoing immediately paying off Bonilla, that freed up money for the Mets to take on the contract of left-handed pitcher Mike Hampton, who was a staple in their rotation in 2000 and helped them to that year's World Series.

Hampton only spent one season in New York, but his departure in free agency resulted in a compensation draft pick in the first round, which turned out to be a franchise icon in David Wright.

Ironically enough, the Mets aren't even the only team making deferred payments to Bonilla. He also gets a crisp $500,000 from the O's each year on July 1, and those payments began way back in 2004.

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