Matt McLain's injury update will undoubtedly complicate Reds' trade deadline plans

All signs point to Matt McLain returning later this season.

Cincinnati Reds infielder Matt McLain
Cincinnati Reds infielder Matt McLain / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

The MLB trade deadline is less than a month away and the Cincinnati Reds don't yet have a direction. The team's up-and-down 2024 campaign has the front office waffling between buying at the deadline or standing pat.

Over the weekend, Reds manager David Bell gave a positive injury update for infielder Matt McLain. According to Bell, McLain is cleared to resume baseball activities and will likely head to Arizona to continue his rehab.

McLain has been on the injured list since Opening Day after undergoing shoulder surgery prior to the start of the 2024 season. The team has consistently maintained that McLain will make his return to the active roster later this season. This latest update would seem to suggest that's still a possibility. How will McLain's status impact the Reds' trade deadline plans?

Matt McLain's injury update will undoubtedly complicate Reds' trade deadline plans

The Reds already have no direction with the July 30th deadline just over three weeks away. General manager Brad Meador was very apprehensive to commit to a specific strategy last week. Was that just typical GM speak — saying a lot but really saying nothing — or do the Reds really not know what direction they're planning to take at the MLB trade deadline?

The Reds starting pitching can go toe-to-toe with almost any lineup in the National League. Both Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo have proven to be frontline starters during their third major league season, and Andrew Abbott looks to be on a similar trajectory.

The Reds bullpen, while shaky at times (like Saturday against the Detroit Tigers), has not been much of a liability this season. More times than not, when Fernando Cruz, Sam Moll, Lucas Sims, and Alexis Diaz get the call, they're able to slam the door on the opposing lineup.

The Reds lineup needs more than just Matt McLain returning from injury

But the Reds' hitting has been abysmal this season. Though some of Cincinnati's struggles can be attributed to injuries, there are also players who were supposed to be key pieces of the offense have struggled.

Jake Fraley, Will Benson, and Tyler Stephenson have been awful at the dish. Jeimer Candelario has shown flashes, but overall has shown to be a below-average hitter. Other than Jonathan India, Elly De La Cruz, and Spencer Steer, the Reds have struggled to find consistency at the plate.

While Reds fans, and the front office, had high hopes for Noelvi Marte upon his return from suspension, the rookie has looked sluggish — both in the batters' box and on the field. If the Reds are resting their hopes on the (possible) return of McLain from shoulder surgery rather than attempting to make additions at the MLB trade deadline, the Cincinnati faithful might as well turn their attention toward next season.

McLain isn't the only Reds player currently on the IL. Both Christian Encarnacion-Strand and TJ Friedl are out as well. Though Friedl may be back later this month, CES is awaiting surgery to repair his injured wrist and is likely to miss the rest of the 2024 season. If the Reds are serious about making a playoff push later this summer, McLain's return alone isn't the answer.

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