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Ken Griffey Jr. deferred payments, explained: Why the Reds are still paying contract in 2023

By Kevin Skiver,


Bobby Bonilla may be the most famous recipient of deferred payments in MLB history, but he's far from the only player teams have decided to effectively pay a mortgage on.

Manny Ramirez is being paid until 2026, Matt Holiday until 2029, and Todd Helton gets his last payment from the Rockies this season. In fact, it's hardly rare for MLB players to get paid for years after their retirement, especially the stars.

What is more rare, however, is the player whose payments were deferred making the fourth-most money on a team's books and the third-most on the active roster. Enter Ken Griffey Jr. and the Cincinnati Reds.

Reds legend Joey Votto is due to make $25 million this year, Wil Myers, a one-year outfielder the Reds signed for $6 million so the Castellinis could say they did something this offseason, is second. And Mike Moustakas, who was released in January, had $22 million left on his deal.

That leaves Griffey -- who hasn't played in a game since 2010 -- in fourth place on the Reds payroll. Griffey signed a nine-year, $112.5 million extension with the Reds in 2000 that had deferred payments from 2009 to 2024. He'll be in the penultimate year of his annual installments of $3.59 million this year.

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Why are the Reds still paying Ken Griffey Jr.'s contract?

Griffey's extension with the Reds 23 years ago reportedly included $57.5 million in deferred payments, plus four percent interest, per Tom Verducci.

According to Spotrac , Griffey's career earnings for his MLB career once the deferred payments conclude next year will total $172.4 million.

The Reds are 26th in the league in active payroll heading into this season, sitting at $70.6 million. Only the Rays, Pirates, Orioles, and Athletics are spending less this year.

What is the worst deferred money contract in MLB?

There isn't really an objective way to evaluate this, but if there were, almost all roads would lead to the Orioles' contract with Chris Davis.

Baltimore gave the first baseman a seven-year deal worth $161 million in 2016, with a whopping $42 million deferred over 15 years. They'll be paying Davis, who immediately crumbled at the plate, $3.5 million annually until 2032 and then $1.4 million a year through 2037, when he's finally off the books.

Davis retired in 2021, the penultimate year of that extension.

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Ken Griffey Jr. Reds stats

Griffey did play out the majority of his contract with the Reds, only getting traded in the final year of the extension as a rental to the White Sox.

Despite dealing with injuries throughout his tenure in Cincinnati, The Kid -- who grew up and went to high school in Cincinnati -- still put up solid counting stats. He finished with 210 home runs, fourth all-time for Cincinnati, and hit .266/.360/.509.

The Reds, however, never found success with Griffey, missing the postseason every year he was on the team.

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