At the moment, it appears as though Cincinnati Reds infielder Matt McLain could return from the injured list next week. The Reds rookie strained his right oblique and has been out of action for a few weeks.
McLain has been seen taking batting practice with the team, and as long as he feels no discomfort, look for the 23-year-old to head out on a rehab assignment later this week.
If the Reds are still mathematically alive in the NL Wild Card race by the time that McLain is ready to return, there's no doubt that Cincinnati should activate the infielder for one final push next week. But who would he replace on the active roster?
Stuart Fairchild will lose his roster spot if Matt McLain returns to the Reds next week.
If Matt McLain is activated from the injured list next Tuesday, Stuart Fairchild is the most likely candidate to be optioned back to Triple-A. Fairchild recently replaced Hunter Renfroe after he was designated for assignment on Monday.
Fairchild is a versatile outfielder, but the Cincinnati Reds would be more than able to offset the loss with both Nick Senzel and Specner Steer able to play on the outfield grass. Cincinnati also has outfielders TJ Friedl, Will Benson, and Nick Martini on the roster as well.
Though he does have some pop in his bat, Fairchild has an OPS below .700 in 207 at-bats this season, and his splits don't really justify him remaining on the roster as a platoon option.
Matt McLain should replace Elly De La Cruz in the Reds lineup.
Finding a way to get Matt McLain back onto the roster is he easy part, but getting the rookie into the everyday lineup might be a little more difficult. The Cincinnati Reds currently have Noelvi Marte, Jonathan India, and Elly De La Cruz on the active roster. All three are able to play up the middle.
While McLain saw plenty of time at second base in India's absence earlier this season, it's De La Cruz who's playing time should take a hit. After exploding onto the scene back in June, the rookie phenom has come crashing back to earth since the All-Star break.
Elly De La Cruz has the most strikeouts in the majors since the Midsummer Classic. Both he and former Reds infielder Eugenio Suarez have 94 strikeouts since the All-Star break. De La Cruz is hitting .179/.263/.328 during that time, has one extra-base hit in the month of September, and hasn't hit a home run since August 23rd.
The decision to bench Elly De La Cruz is just as easy as the decision to option Stuart Fairchild back to the minors once the former Matt McLain is ready to go.