Why Mauricio Llovera illustrates everything wrong with Red Sox roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Walk a beach with a metal detector, and you'll quickly discover the hit rate is not high. Quarters qualify as treasures. The usual haul of tin cans, bottle caps, and foil wrappers do not. (Although if you're lucky, maybe there's still some hot dog inside! Mmmmm!)
Beachcombing is no way to get rich, and it's not the best way to unearth talent, either, but that hasn't stopped Chaim Bloom. The Red Sox chief baseball officer constantly sifts the sediment for bargains, but he hasn't had much luck this year, with one of his salvage projects playing a central role in the defeat that may have finally, officially put Boston's season on ice.
Mauricio Llovera is hardly the difference between finishing fourth and overcoming long playoff odds, but he was never realistically going to be a part of the solution. That makes him a useful representation for the personnel failings that have dropped the Red Sox five games out of the wild card race entering the final six weeks.
On Tuesday, Llovera did what he has done best since arriving, and that is turn a probable loss into a certain one. Summoned to maintain a 3-0 deficit vs. the Astros, he instead committed a brutal error and allowed four runs in a 7-3 defeat.
The Red Sox have lost eight of his nine appearances, and it's not because he's a mop-up man. Manager Alex Cora has summoned him five times with the Red Sox trailing by no more than two runs, and they've lost all five.
He lost his second appearance, which came in a tie game vs. his former team in San Francisco. He allowed an inherited runner to score in his next outing vs. the Mariners. The Blue Jays led by two runs when he entered and four when he left. Two days later, he allowed five runs in a blowout as Toronto completed the sweep. He surrendered a killer insurance run vs. the Nationals after the Red Sox had rallied from 9-1 to 9-7. Then came Tuesday. He's not just appearing in losses, he's actively contributing to them.
None of this is really Llovera's fault. A minor leaguer with the Phillies for nearly seven years, he debuted during the 2020 lockout by getting bombed in his only game. He signed with the Giants last year and was designated for assignment this summer after five appearances.
The Red Sox acquired him for minor-league right-hander Marques Johnson in the quintessential Bloom trade, hoping they could find a serviceable pitcher in another team's castoff. It hasn't worked. It rarely does. Even the exceptions, like the great September the Red Sox got out of Hansel Robles in 2021, end up being temporary.
Players like Llovera arrive not only with Hobbit-appropriate ceilings, but barely a floor. And yet here he is, throwing crucial innings in must-win August games. It turns out that most of the veteran relievers moved at the deadline have been pretty terrible, with Dodgers left-hander Ryan Yarbrough an exception, but that's not the point. At least Jordan Hicks had the potential to hit in Toronto. What is Llovera?
He's a complementary flyer being forced into a marginally important role. It's mildly surprising he's still on the roster at all, since the Red Sox shipped out the more effective Chris Murphy to activate Tanner Houck for Tuesday's start. Llovera would've been a better choice from a straight production standpoint, but Murphy had just thrown four innings on Monday and would've been unavailable for a few days anyway. Plus, Llovera was out of options, which meant the Red Sox couldn't demote him without passing him through waivers. Were they really at risk of losing someone who only pitches in losses? Would it even matter if they did? In both cases, I would lean towards no.
But this is how they do things now. They arc their metal detector across rival bullpens in the hopes of scoring a Buffalo nickel or silver dollar, when all they're going to get is a pull-tab or rusted fishing lure.
That's a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time on vacation or in retirement, but it's no way to build a winning baseball team.