Major League Baseball
Meet the mastermind behind 'Bobby Bonilla Day' and a most unusual MLB contract
Major League Baseball

Meet the mastermind behind 'Bobby Bonilla Day' and a most unusual MLB contract

Updated Jul. 30, 2021 8:21 a.m. ET

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports Baseball Analyst

July 1. The day another check for $1.193 million is delivered to the Bobby Bonilla residence.

Bonilla hasn’t suited up in an MLB uniform since 2001, but those checks started arriving in 2011 and will keep on flowing until 2035. That's $1.193 million every year for 25 years in what is considered one of the most unusual contracts in the history of sports.

Bonilla will be 72 years old when the last paycheck arrives in 2035 — 34 years after he played his final game. 


The deal went down in 2000, when the New York Mets agreed to buy out the remaining $5.9 million on Bonilla’s contract.

However, instead of paying him that money at that time, the Mets agreed to pay him out over the course of a 25-year period with a negotiated 8% interest rate.

I sat down on "Bobby Bonilla Day" with the mastermind behind this contract, agent Dennis Gilbert.

When he first joined the Zoom call, Gilbert was wearing a bright blue shirt with an image of Bonilla surrounded by money bags. Unfortunately for the interview itself, he switched shirts because he felt that was "a little much." 

Gilbert is the cofounder of Beverly Hills Sports Council, a sports agency that has represented numerous professional baseball players. His clients have included Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mike Piazza, George Brett, Bonilla and countless other high-profile players.

Gilbert also has a background in the insurance business, and that experience helped him shape many of the deals he made along the way, including, most notably, the Bonilla deal. 

I asked Gilbert how he made the switch from the insurance business to being an MLB agent.

"Well, I was always really close with the Brett family," Gilbert said. "One year, George Brett needed some help with his contract discussions in Kansas City, so I flew up there and helped him out and just continued to represent him."

Eventually, Gilbert cofounded Beverly Hills Sports Council, and the clients began to pile up.

When asked how he got the idea for a deferred money deal, Gilbert said the following.

"You know, I had a lot of friends that were coming out of the game of baseball, and they were running out of money. I was trying to think of what I could do and was thinking of some ideas of how to go about it, and this is what I came up with. This isn’t the only deal I did like this. I actually did this with a lot of other guys. This was just the biggest one.

"A lot of players were controlled by the stockbrokers," he added. "They would always promise they could do better if just given the money upfront, but they don’t."

This sort of deal was unprecedented at the time. I asked Gilbert if Bonilla was always on board with this sort of deal or if it took some convincing.

"Funny you ask that," he said. "Bobby always asked a lot of questions. He was very curious about everything. Being in the insurance business, I was very persuasive, and Bobby actually got it. He was very much so on board with it way, more so than many of my other clients."

Naturally, I followed up by asking which clients weren’t on board with the idea. Gilbert said: "Well, I’m not going to name names, but I will say Bret Saberhagen was a guy that was also on board with it."

Throughout the conversation, we got into the details that went into the decision and why he thought this was the right thing to do.

The best part, though? That would be the memorabilia tour he took me on at the end of our conversation. From Satchel Paige to Ted Williams to Barry Bonds to Michael Jackson, Gilbert's got it all.

"You know, I played minor league ball myself," he said. "My hitting coach was actually Ted Williams. Here’s a picture of the two of us together."

One thing about Gilbert you can tell right away is that he’s a brilliant man. It’s easy to see why he was so successful and paved the way for many others in the agent industry. 

These days, Gilbert still works in baseball, his passion in life, as a special assistant to Chicago White Sox owner and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. 

He’s still involved with contract negotiations to this day, though I doubt he could ever again pull off a deal quite like he did back in 2000. 

That one will live on forever — or at least until July 1, 2035.

Watch the full interview with Dennis Gilbert below: 

Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the "Flippin' Bats" podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.


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