The New York Mets are having a less-than-stellar season. After a playoff appearance last year, the team is solidly in fourth place in the NL East and several games back in the Wild Card race. Perhaps their struggles are easy to explain. They’re around league average in most categories, and in the categories that they do excel in, they struggle in the opposing category. For example, as of this writing, they’re ninth in home runs on offense, but defensively, their pitching staff has given up the seventh-most home runs.
While their current play is certainly a major factor for their subpar season, it could also be that they have several guys on their payroll who haven’t played for the team in years — and in some cases, decades.
The Mets currently owe eight different players $49.8 million, despite none of them being on the present-day roster.
Tops on that list is Robinson Canó, who will make $20,250,000 this year. The Mets traded for the second baseman in December 2018. He was already on the decline of his career, and he also missed the entire 2021 season after a second positive PED test. The team eventually released him in 2022. He joined the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves but is currently a free agent.
At least Canó isn’t actively helping another team. The same can’t be said for catcher James McCann. The Mets signed him to a four-year contract in December 2020, but he lasted just two injury-plagued seasons in New York before the team dealt him to the Baltimore Orioles. The Mets owe McCann $11 million this year.
If there’s any silver lining, at least a few of these players were on the Mets this year. Third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who will make a little more than $9.1 million this season, was on the Mets as of June 23. He only recently got traded to the Los Angeles Angels. Similarly, the Mets just released pitcher Tommy Hunter, who has a salary of $686,857. Still, the Mets owe both players their money.
It gets more bizarre from there. Pitcher Chris Flexen last played for the Mets in 2019 — since then, he’s spent a season in Korea and three with the Mariners. The Mets just traded for Flexen earlier this month and already released him. He’ll still make $3.87 million. Darun Ruf has already been on two other teams since the Mets, yet they have to pay him $3.25 million. The Mets also owe 59-year-old pitcher Bret Saberhagen $250,000 in deferred salary. His last appearance for the team was in 1995!
Of course, the Mets’ most famous failed contract belongs to Bobby Bonilla. He last played in the major leagues in 2001. Yet thanks to a nifty deferred contract, he’s been paid every year from 2003 to 2035. For most of those years, he’s received (and will continue to receive) between $1.2 and $1.4 million. Bonilla will continue earning money from the Mets until he’s 72 years old.
Fun fact: Agent Dennis Gilbert represented both Bonilla and Saberhagen when they made those deferred deals.
The bottom line is the Mets have a ton of money invested in players who aren’t helping their team. In some cases, they’re actively contributing to opposing teams. It’s got to feel pretty rough watching a player hit a home run or strike out one of your batters, all while knowing you’re the one paying him.