How Nathan Eovaldi’s agents handled the World Series and his free agency
LAS VEGAS — It’s a priority for agents Sam and Seth Levinson to be there in person when a client makes it to the World Series. Their business is built on maintaining relationships, and that can’t be done in an office.
The New York-based brothers usually split the games up. So when the Red Sox played the Dodgers in Game 3 on Oct. 26, it was Seth who was in the stands while Sam watched from home.
As the game went into extra innings, the Levinsons expected to see Nathan Eovaldi come out of the bullpen for the Sox. Their client had pitched effectively in relief in Games 1 and 2.
Eovaldi entered the game in the 12th inning and dispatched three batters quickly. When the Sox took the lead, Eovaldi came back to close the game but allowed an unearned run.
“I thought that would be it,” Sam Levinson said.
Oh, no. Eovaldi would pitch four more innings, the tension — and his pitch count — steadily rising.
Every time Red Sox manager Alex Cora asked Eovaldi how he felt, the righthander insisted he was staying in the game. For the Levinsons, it was torture.
Eovaldi was set to become a free agent once the Series ended, and any mishap or injury could cost him millions. The 28-year-old Eovaldi had undergone Tommy John elbow surgery only two years before.
“Everyone was nervous,” Sam Levinson said. “But he was doing an amazing job; his mind-set was to do whatever it took to win. He wasn’t thinking about his future. If he was, he would have never done that.”
As Eovaldi threw pitch after pitch, Seth Levinson sent a text message to Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, another client, in the 17th inning.
“I said, ‘You tell Alex I’m coming down there to kill him,’ ” he said. “But I was so impressed with how he was pitching.”
Eovaldi finally cracked in the 18th inning, allowing a walkoff homer by Max Muncy.
But Eovaldi emerged as a big winner from the wrenching loss. The Red Sox drew inspiration from his effort and won the next two games to clinch the Series.
“What he did was amazing,” Cora said. “For me, personally, that was like the biggest moment of the World Series, for him to compete at that level.”
Then president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made it a priority to retain Eovaldi, a process that finished last week when he agreed to a four-year, $68 million deal.
“To me, Nathan was Teddy Roosevelt’s man in the arena,” Seth Levinson said. “Everybody gets knocked down in the real world. It’s what you do when that happens.
“Nathan risked it all and he won. It was beautiful.”
Eovaldi, his agents, and the Red Sox came together Monday at the Winter Meetings to discuss the deal.
Eovaldi had interest from a wide swath of teams. He quickly eliminated those he felt weren’t contenders, followed by others who wanted to sign him as a closer.
“I view myself as a starter, and that’s something I’ve always done my entire career,” Eovaldi said.
There was an emotional tug to sign with the Astros, his hometown team. Eovaldi lives a short distance from Minute Maid Park and his wife, Rebekah, is expecting their second child in January. But the Sox made the best offer, along with an environment Eovaldi knew he could succeed in. Counting the postseason, Eovaldi appeared in 18 games for the Sox and had a 2.83 ERA.
After the Sox acquired him from Tampa Bay in July, Eovaldi quickly came to trust Cora, pitching coach Dana LeVangie, and the medical staff.
“Sometimes the deal is there; sometimes it’s not. For me, it was there,” Eovaldi said. “It was a no-brainer for me to come back here.”
There was never much doubt. Well before the deal was signed, Cora texted Eovaldi several times to discuss plans for spring training. Eovaldi also stayed in contact with the other starters. That his teammates were there to pick him up after Game 3 also mattered.
“The love and support that they were showing me throughout that whole series and especially after that Game 3,” Eovaldi said.“It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Eovaldi did not pitch the final two games, but said he was available for Game 5. His arm bounced back quickly.
The Sox also had him go through tests, both after the season and after the contract was agreed upon. They feel Eovaldi’s work ethic will lead to the best seasons of his career.
“We always realize there’s a risk you take with any player, but felt comfortable, and felt comfortable with the length [of the contract],” Dombrowski said.
The risk paid off.
“He keeps saying he was 0-1 in the World Series,” Sam Levinson said. “But he ended up being the winner.”