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Nightengale: ‘Bobby Bonilla Day’ Agent Says ‘I’m Just Happy that He’s Happy’

Bobby Bonilla played for eight teams — including two stints with the Mets — over the course of his 16-year MLB career. He was a .279 hitter with 287 home runs. Photo: Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News

By Bob Nightengale |

Dennis Gilbert woke up Sunday morning at his Beverly Hills home, listened to the congratulatory message, and laughed.

Yes, he remembered the significance of this day.

How could he ever forget July 1?

It’s Bobby Bonilla Day.

It’s the day that Bonilla will be paid $1.193 million by the New York Mets.

Well, $1,193,248.20 to be exact.

Yes, to the 55-year-old man who hasn’t played a game since 2001.

To a man who will be paid almost as much as the $1.227 million the Yankees are paying to their best player and best pitcher – Aaron Judge and Luis Severino.

To a man that will be paid most likely after Judge and Severino have retired, with payments due through 2035.

It’s the contract that keeps on giving, and keeps on pinching the Mets, who opened Sunday’s play with the worst record in the National League.

 “I know Bobby is happy about it, but we don’t talk about it much,’’ Gilbert told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t need his salary to remind me of my affection for Bobby Bonilla. I’m just happy that he’s happy.’’

Gilbert, 71, who retired as a baseball agent in 1999 and now is a special assistant for Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, says that he’s always reminded of the contract on this day. Someone will call. Someone will shoot him a text. But never Bonilla, or, of course, the Mets.

“It’s come up a couple of times when talking with the Mets,’’ Gilbert says, “but not once have the Mets said anything remotely negative.

“It’s just unfortunate they got hood-winked in the (Bernie) Madoff deal. Otherwise, it would have been a win-win for both sides.’’

The deal was consummated when the Mets chose to pay Bonilla $29.8 million in deferred payments, starting in 2011, instead of the $5.9 million they owed him in 2000. The Mets needed to free up some cash, and figured that it would be cheaper providing Bonilla 25 payments at 8% interest than paying the last year of his original five-year, $29 million contract.

“It was questioned from the inception,’’ Gilbert said, “because people wondered whether getting 8% interest was a good deal. At the time, we were having double-digit inflation, and people were thinking, “Geez, could he have made more money investing in other things?’

 “Bobby needed to understand how it worked, too, and Bobby is very conservative guy. He wanted to make sure he had money for the future. He was concerned about taking care of his family. But when you look at it now, 8% is not a very conservative number, especially guaranteed.

“It’s funny, I’ve done more than 1,000 contracts in my lifetime, including the ones for Barry Bonds with all of his incentives, but this one is always talked about the most.’’

And it will continue to be discussed every year, at least until the time the Mets start winning again.

What will happen first: a Mets World Series title or the final payment to Bonilla?

“I’m really hoping it’s the Mets,’’ said Gilbert, who planned to spend his day watching the Dodgers-Colorado Rockies game at Dodger Stadium. “Fred Wilpon is a first-class person and deserves it.

“Hopefully then, people will stop talking about this contract.’’

Well, at least until July 1, 2035.

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook.

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