Here’s a list of some of the more creative, generous or ludicrous perks baseball players have received.
Hey, New York Mets fans, think things couldn’t get any worse? Next year former outfielder Bobby Bonilla goes back on the payroll at the ripe old age of 48. A little back-story: In 1999 Bonilla returned to the Mets for a second stint at Shea following his borderline disastrous free-agent signing in 1992.
Bonilla wasn’t any better the second time around, so the Mets waived him in 2000. The problem was that the team still owed Bonilla $5.9 million in guaranteed salary. Bonilla’s agents worked out a deal with the Mets where he would defer the salary if the team would pay him $1,193,248.20 every July 1 from 2011 to 2035. Not a bad deal for someone who was so bad the team basically paid him to go away.
Former A’s owner Charlie Finley never thought of a gimmick he wouldn’t try, including a mechanical rabbit that delivered fresh balls to the umpire and hiring a 13-year-old MC Hammer as his “Executive V.P.” In 1972, Finley offered his players cash for growing a mustache by Father’s Day, thereby giving birth to reliever Fingers’ trademark handlebar ‘stache. The A’s went on to win the World Series that season, and Fingers’ contract for 1973 contained a $300 bonus for growing the mustache as well as $100 for the purchase of mustache wax.
After a spectacular rookie season in 1986, the rotund reliever who always pitched in his lucky Jetsons t-shirt needed a new contract. Kerfeld asked for $110,037.37, matching his number 37 jersey, to pitch in 1987. On top of that, he received 37 boxes of orange Jell-O in the deal. The Astros would soon regret this delicious bonus, though; Kerfeld, who was famously caught eating ribs in the dugout that season, would battle weight and injury problems and get sent down to the minors.
The Boston Red Sox made a big free-agent splash this winter by signing starting pitcher John Lackey to a 5-year, $82.5 million deal. Signing pitchers to long-term contracts is a tricky venture due to the possibility of injury, but the Red Sox managed to give themselves a little peace of mind. If Lackey misses any significant time due to surgery on a pre-existing elbow injury during the first five years of the contract, the Red Sox gain a club option for the 2015 season in which Lackey would have to pitch for the Major League minimum salary.
The contract extension George Brett signed with the Kansas City Royals in 1984 must have been one of the stranger deals in MLB history. The club agreed to give Brett the bat he used in the infamous 1983 “Pine Tar Game” as part of the pact, but that wasn’t the only odd perk. The contract also gave him part ownership of an apartment complex in Memphis.
At the time, Avron Fogelman co-owned the Royals. Fogelman had made his fortune as a lawyer and real estate baron in Memphis, so when the team needed a little extra incentive to get Brett to sign, they offered the third baseman a piece of one of Fogelman’s developments. Brett’s agent/brother Bobby negotiated the deal; he referred to the 1,100-apartment complex as “a nice little kicker.” Brett received a guaranteed cash flow of $1 million from the development and retained the right to sell his 10-percent stake to the Royals for $2 million.
Fogelman’s Royals used the trick a couple more times when they signed reliever Dan Quisenberry and outfielder Willie Wilson to similar deals that gave them stakes in the 700-apartment Stewart’s Ferry development in Nashville. (Quiz got 24.5 percent of the development, while Wilson got 9.5 percent.) Fogelman later told the New York Times that he might have given up too much in the hastily negotiated deals.
All player contracts are full of legal jargon, but Barry Bonds’ 2007 deal with the San Francisco Giants contained a different kind of legalese. In the wake of Bonds’ ongoing problems with the law, the club negotiated a deal that would allow the Giants to release Bonds or convert his contract to a non-guaranteed deal if he came under indictment for a crime. Moreover, the club contractually severed its relationship with Bonds’ personal trainers and wrote in the deal that said trainers were no longer allowed in team facilities.
Before Oswalt made a start in the 2005 National League Championship Series, Astros owner Drayton McLane promised to make the ace’s dreams come true if he won, specifically his life goal of bulldozer ownership. After Oswalt dominated the Cardinals to send Houston to its first-ever World Series, McLane came through with a Caterpillar D6N XL. Since Major League Baseball requires high-dollar gifts be disclosed, Oswalt signed an addendum to his contract, a “bulldozer clause,” authorizing the club to give him his new toy.
Dice-K’s deal with the Red Sox includes a plethora of strange or excessive clauses including housing allowances and a personal masseuse, but the oddest is that he’s contractually guaranteed the jersey number 18.
The seven-year, $105 million deal Brown signed after the 1998 season guaranteed twelve round trip private jet trips from L.A. to his hometown in Macon, Georgia, for his family, sparing his children from cruel flight attendants’ taunts about their dad being overpaid.
When it comes to baseball’s biggest free agent deals, it’s not uncommon for teams to throw in a suite or a set of premium tickets to home games as part of the contract. Nothing comes free at the new Yankee Stadium, though, not even if you’re the team’s biggest star. The 10-year contract Alex Rodriguez signed in December 2007 guarantees him $275 million in cash, but he doesn’t get any free tickets. Instead, he gets the option of purchasing four Legends Suite or comparable season tickets each year. Fellow Bronx Bomber Mark Teixeira is also contractually allowed to purchase eight of the Yankees’ choicest season tickets each year.
One would think a guy making a guaranteed $17 million a year wouldn’t be too worried about keeping a roof over his head. Not Ichiro Suzuki, though. The Seattle Mariners star outfielder signed a five-year contract extension in July 2007 that included, among other perks, four round-trip airline tickets to Japan each year and the services of an interpreter and trainer throughout the season. It also included a housing allowance for each year of the deal. While the numbers themselves aren’t eye-popping—the allowance ranges from $32,000 to $36,000 a year over the life of the deal—kudos to Ichiro for getting someone else to pay his rent.
By the end of his storied career, outspoken hurler Curt Schilling had started to get a bit doughy. When the Boston Red Sox re-signed him to a one-year deal with $8 million before the 2008 season, it included a clause in which Schilling could pick up an extra $2 million if he made weight at six random weigh-ins over the course of the season. Schilling picked up a $333,333 check each time he didn’t tip the scales too far.
Arizona inked the slugging third baseman signed for four years and $45 million in December 2004. As part of the deal, Glaus received $250,000 annually for “personal business expenses,” namely the cost of his wife Ann’s equestrian training and equipment. Although Glaus bashed 37 homers for the Snakes in 2005, he also tied for the major-league lead in errors by a third baseman with 24. Despite Mrs. Glaus’ surely improving performance in the steeplechase, Glaus had to hoof it to Toronto when he was traded barely a year after signing.
When the Big Unit signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998, team owner Jerry Colangelo also threw in a pair of partial season tickets for the Phoenix Suns to lure in the lanky lefty. Seems like Johnson could have afforded his own tickets, but to be fair, when you’re making $52 million over four years, it’s hard to get scalpers to fall for “Can you take twenty for the pair? I swear it’s all I’ve got, dude.”
Beltran’s mammoth seven-year, $119 million deal from January 2005 showed that he had all of baseball’s five tools but lacked a conditioned ocular enhancer: a gadget that throws numbered, colored tennis balls over 150 mph to help players pick up the speed of a pitched ball. There’s a clause in the contract requiring that the Mets lease the machine and retain an operator for it.
When lauded general manager Billy Beane signed a three-year extension with the Oakland Athletics in 2002, he negotiated a clause that would allow him to opt out of the deal if the team were sold. Sure enough, in April 2005, a new ownership group headed by real estate developer Lew Wolff bought the team. Rather than opting out and leaving the team, Beane jumped at the opportunity to negotiate another four-year extension that would take him through the 2012 season. This deal came with more than just cash, though; Wolff also set Beane up as a minority owner with a 4% share of the club.
When the Houston Astros (sound familiar?) re-signed Brad Lidge in January 2007, the reliever got an incentive clause promising $25,000 for winning a Silver Slugger, given annually to the top hitter at each position. Lidge probably didn’t consider this easy money; as a relief pitcher, he had only been to the plate seven times in his five-season career and hadn’t seen an at-bat since 2004. Despite an erratic season on the mound, Lidge was the model of consistency at the plate in 2007, mostly because he never had an at-bat. Houston finished 13th in the National League in runs scored that year, though, so maybe letting Lidge take some hacks would have been worth a try.
Lots of players have free-plane-ticket perks written into their contracts, but some feel that air travel really lacks that fun we’re-going-to-the-prom feeling you can only get from a long limo ride. When flamethrower A.J. Burnett signed with Toronto as a free agent in December 2005, he required that his wife receive eight round-trip limo rides from his home in Maryland to Toronto each season. That’s around nine hours in a limo each way, which is enough time to move the little divider between you and the driver up and down roughly 3,500 times.
This last one’s actually a basketball contract. Michael Jordan’s abrupt departure from basketball to play minor league baseball following the Chicago Bulls’ 1993 championship campaign struck a number of observers as odd. How could Jordan quit playing hoops and leave all of that money on the table?
As it turns out, His Airness was losing less cash than we all thought. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf also owned the Chicago White Sox, the team Jordan was playing for in the minors. Even though Jordan was technically retired from basketball, Reinsdorf paid Jordan his $4 million salaries for the Bulls seasons he missed.
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