On Bobby Bonilla Day, it is important to remember the 10-year, $10 million personal services deal that the Angels have with Albert Pujols.
July 1st is the first day that Major League Baseball teams report to summer camp and the 2020 MLB season finally commences. While this July 1st will hopefully be a one-off restart for a strange baseball season, the day does represent another important for MLB; Bobby Bonilla Day.
After acquiring Bobby Bonilla from the Los Angeles Dodgers in November 1998, the New York Mets also acquired the contract he had signed with the Florida Marlins in November 1996. However, after Bonilla continued to slide in the 1999 season, the team opted to buy him out of the final year and $5 million of his contract. To do so, the parties agreed to defer the money at an 8% interest rate, payable in yearly installments of $1.19 million from 2011 to 2035. When all is said and done, Bonilla will have turned that $5 million into $28.56 million and will be paid by an MLB team until he’s 72.
But wait, Bobby Bonilla never played for the Los Angeles Angels. What does this have to do with the Halos?
While the Angels don’t have any direct ties to Bobby Bonilla or his ridiculous payment, they do have a slight similarity in the contract Albert Pujols signed with the team in December 2011. In Pujols’ deal, which at the time was one of the largest contracts ever handed out, the slugger was paid $240 million over a 10 year period. However, it was an interesting rider on the deal which bears similarities to the other pact we celebrate on Bobby Bonilla Day.
When Albert Pujols retired, an additional 10-year, $10 million deal will kick in, keeping Pujols as part of the organization for another decade as part of a “personal services” agreement. Typically, this means the player is brought into the front office as a senior adviser or utilized in a potential coaching arrangement with the team. We see this around the league as former legends try to stay involved with their respective teams well after their playing careers end.
In Pujols’ case, the details of that arrangement are not yet fully known, but there is one interesting repercussion of the deal. As pointed out by CBS Chicago in 2011, Pujols’ deal will prevent him from being associated with any other clubs during the tenure of that deal. As an almost certain Hall of Famer, that Pujols won’t have a say over whether he is inducted as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals or as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. However, if inducted as a Cardinal, the contract may prevent him from being able to wear a Cardinals hat at the induction ceremony. As much as Angels fans would want to say that is the way it should be, the statistics say otherwise.
So while the $10 million over 10 years seems like a small fee to keep Albert Pujols in the organization past his retirement and allow him to contribute to the club for the next decade, it may
create an awkward moment in Cooperstown halfway through the deal. The Hall of Fame doesn’t deserve this and the fans shouldn’t be deprived over what is right for the game or both organizations. This deal forced a change that prevented such future deals from covering players past their playing days, agreed to by both MLB and the Players’ Association.
Surely, if and when this situation becomes an issue (likely in 2027), the two teams will find a way to common ground and put this clause to bed, even if only temporarily.