by Rob Joyce
Max Scherzer is about to become a very rich man. The biggest name still on the free agent market is no longer available after the pitcher signed a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals. The deal makes Scherzer the second-highest paid pitcher ever, behind only Clayton Kershaw, but there is a quirk – the second half of the deal is deferred. That means instead of paying the $210 million in seven years, he will receive $15 million every year for the next 14 years. Already 30 years old, Scherzer will be making seven-figures annually until he is 44, and likely retired. Although rare, it is by no means unprecedented for a player to be on a team’s payroll long after his playing days are over. Here are the most famous cases:
The most famous of all deferred contracts, Bonilla will be paid $1.1 million dollars by the Mets every year until 2035. The thing is, Bonilla stopped playing for the Mets in 1999. How is this possible? After the ’99 season, New York didn’t want to pay $5.9 million to buy out the final year of his contract, so Bonilla, owner Fred Wilpon and general manager Steve Phillips made a deal: the Mets would defer paying that $5.9 million for 11 years, and then spread out the payments, interest included, for 25 years. That means with interest, Bonilla’s $5.9 million becomes $29.8 million dollars.
That’s right, Bonilla will be paid nearly $30 million to not play for the Mets. By the time the contract runs its course, he will be 73 years old.
There was a time when Arenas was among the best players in the NBA, and he was rewarded as such in 2008, signing a six-year, $111 million contract with the Wizards. He was traded to the Magic in 2010, and Orlando used the amnesty clause on him in 2011. However, all that means is that Arenas’ contract doesn’t count towards the team’s salary cap. That does not excuse the Magic from paying Arenas. So although the former All-Star hasn’t played in the NBA since 2012, he was the league’s third-highest paid player last season, behind only Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki.
Until 2016, Arenas will make around $22.3 million a year.
Even when he was still playing, the 15-year, $67.5 million contract DiPietro signed with the Islanders in 2006 became a disaster. Over the next seven years, the former No. 1 overall pick racked up injuries at alarming rates. From 2008-2013, DiPietro played a total of 50 games.
Finally, in July 2013 Islanders’ general manager Garth Snow used a compliance buyout on the goalie, who didn’t make another NHL appearance and is now a radio host in New York. DiPietro will be paid $1.5 million a year until 2029.
Ken Griffey, Jr:
“The Kid” will have grandkids by the time the Reds are done paying him. In 2000, a 30-year-old Griffey signed a nine-year, $116.5 million contract, a mammoth deal for the time. Cincinnati deferred half of the money to be paid over time. Although the contract was supposed to run out in 2009, Griffey will be paid north of $3.5 million a year until 2025, by which time he will be 54.
Pronger has not technically retired, but it is well-established that he is never playing hockey again. The defenseman signed a contract with the Flyers in 2010 that runs through the end of 2017, but after sustaining two head injuries in short succession, concussion-like symptoms have ended his playing days.
Because Pronger is on long-term injured reserve, he is being paid $4.9 million by Philadelphia, but the team receives salary cap relief. If he were to retire, though, the full amount would count against Philly’s salary cap, and Pronger would forfeit the money. It’s unusual, yes, but in essence he is being paid to purposely not “retire” until six years after he hangs up the skates.