The Houston Astros have their own version of Bobby Bonilla in Jon Singleton.
Happy belated Bobby Bonilla Day! Every July 1, the New York Mets pay former player Bobby Bonilla about $1.19 million, which they’ll continue to do through 2035. It’s a rather amazing thing and somewhat of an anomaly in the sports world. The Houston Astros have their own version of this in Jon Singleton, though at a much smaller scale.
Bonilla, who’s now 57 years old and hasn’t played since 2001, is pretty well set. Instead of paying him his full $5.6 million when they agreed to buy out his contract in 2000, the Mets instead agreed to make these annual payments starting in 2011 for a period of 25 years. The team’s ownership was mixed up in a Bernie Madoff scheme at the time and evidently was banking on a big payout, which obviously did not occur. Bet they regret that decision now.
There are some other teams making deferred payments to former players, such as the Red Sox with Manny Ramirez and the Braves with Bruce Sutter. Notably, the Mets are also making deferred payments to Bret Saberhagen. Meanwhile, the Astros are continuing to make payments of a different type to a player who’s no longer with them.
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Risk But No Reward
Singleton was a top prospect leading up to his major league debut in 2014, and the Astros chose to try and capitalize on that. Before he even played a major league game, they signed him to a five-year deal worth $10 million, surprising people across the industry and drawing the ire of a few players who felt he sold himself short.
Unfortunately Singleton never stuck, as he hit .171/.290/.331 with 14 homers in 114 major league games between the 2014 and 2015 seasons. They removed him from the 40-man roster prior to the 2017 season as he continued to struggle in the minors.
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His problems with marijuana caused him to fail two drug tests prior to his debut and then a third in early 2018, the last of which resulted in a 100-game suspension and led the Astros to release him. In spite of all that, they’ve still been paying him.
Singleton’s contract guaranteed him $1.5 million in 2014 and then $2 million yearly from 2015 through 2018. The Astros also had three club option years on the end of that deal that would’ve substantially increased his salary if they were picked up. Since that obviously didn’t happen, the team is paying the buyouts on those option years.
The 2019 option buyout was $500,000, and the buyouts for 2020 and 2021 are $250,000 each. So, yes, the Astros are still paying Singleton this year and will pay him next year as well. He hasn’t played since the team released him and his career is probably over, but he’s still getting some money for a few years after he last played — not totally unlike Bonilla.