A high-level front office meeting in December 1999 also showed the degree of confidence the Mets had in Madoff. The club wanted to be rid of outfielder Bobby Bonilla, a malcontent who had hit .160 the previous season in a second unhappy tour of duty with the franchise. To release Bonilla, however, would cost the Mets the $5.9 million he was owed for the 2000 season. The Mets came up with a buyout plan: Beginning on July 1, 2011, they would pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 per year for 25 years, or $29.8 million. The payment was based on the return Bonilla would've received had he invested the $5.9 million at an interest rate of 8% (which was just below the 8.5% prime rate at the time).
Why would the Mets make such a deal? The Bonilla money would be invested with Madoff, from whom the Mets expected the usual 10 to 12% return, or two to four percentage points above the rate they guaranteed Bonilla. "We were going to make money on Bobby Bo's $30 million," says one official who was at the meeting. "I remember the chuckling in the room."
By deferring the money to Bonilla, the Mets freed cash to fortify their roster for the 2000 season. On Dec. 23, 1999, they traded for pitcher Mike Hampton and outfielder Derek Bell in a deal that added $8.1 million to the payroll. Eleven days later they officially released Bonilla. The 2000 Mets would win the NL pennant. The Madoff fund made the roster moves possible.
Pays The Price [Sports Illustrated]