The New York Mets are annually laughed at around July 1, when the team pays former player Bobby Bonilla $1.19 million as part of a deferred contract that runs until 2035. As it turns out, the Atlanta Braves are in the same boat when it comes to a Hall of Fame pitcher.
As The Athletic’s Dan Lewis reported, the Braves are still paying former reliever Bruce Sutter, who played with the Braves from 1985 to 1988. The 1979 NL Cy Young Winner signed a six-year, $9.1 million deal with the Braves before the 1985 season, but Sutter opted to have the money deferred.
“Sutter was only paid about $750,000 per year while under the Braves’ control,” Lewis wrote. “For the thirty years after he retired — 30!!! — the Braves agreed to pay him no less than $1.12 million per year, and potentially more if interest rates spiked above a negotiated floor of 12.3 percent. [They haven’t.] That ends in 2021, and it’s only 2018, so Bruce Sutter, at some point this year, received or will receive a check for $1.12 million.”
Sutter retired four years into his six-year deal with the Braves, but as Lewis explained, Sutter still received his money because Atlanta agreed to pay the $9.1 million in full when the contract was agreed to. The $750,000 Sutter was paid each season were interest payments of about 8 percent on his contract.
“As a pretty funny, and obviously unintended side effect, Sutter ended up getting his negotiated ‘salary’ in both 1989 and 1990, even though he was retired,” Lewis wrote.
Those payments of $750,000 during his playing career and the $1.12 million that followed are only interest payments, Lewis points out. That means in 2022, the Braves still owe Sutter the $9.1 million that he deferred.
Sutter’s signing with the Braves turned out to be quite the investment for the 65-year-old, but their pairing led to very little on the baseball diamond. Sutter recorded just 40 saves and posted a 4.55 ERA from 1985 to 1988, which included Sutter missing the 1987 season as he recovered from shoulder surgery. The Braves, meanwhile, lost 96, 89, 92 and 106 games in the four seasons Sutter was on the squad.
“Four years from now, Bruce Sutter will be a 69-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher who last pitched in 1988 who, unlike Bobby Bonilla, will be on the receiving end of a $9.1 million check from the Atlanta Braves,” Lewis wrote. “In total, Sutter will earn north of $45 million for his three years being terrible as a member of the Atlanta Braves.”