Reds' difficult 60-day IL decision getting easier in worst way possible

The Cincinnati Reds will be starting the season without some of their best players.

Cincinnati Reds infielder Matt McLain
Cincinnati Reds infielder Matt McLain / Jeff Dean/GettyImages

After waiving Jose Barrero, the Cincinnati Reds roster was reduced to 39 players. But the Reds quickly filled the final spot by signing left-handed reliever Justin Wilson to a one-year deal. The Reds 40-man roster is now full, but they'll likely need to clear two spots ahead of Opening Day.

Mike Ford and Tony Santillan have done enough this spring to warrant consideration, and is stands to reason that both non-roster invitees should be on the plane back to Cincinnati on Sunday. While Noelvi Marte's placement on the restricted list will clear one spot, the Reds will have to clear one more if they hope to add both Ford and Santillan to the 40-man roster.

One way to do that would be to designate a player for assignment, but a quick look would show that there aren't any players the Reds would be comfortable losing. Perhaps Casey Legumina is in jeopardy of losing his spot, but that seems unlikely. The other way to clear a 40-man roster spot is by putting a player on the 60-day injured list. If that happens, who's most likely to be sidelined for the first two months of the 2024 season?

Which Reds player is most likely to land on 60-day IL in order to clear roster spot?

Unfortunately, the Reds have a laundry list of potential candidates to choose from. Both Matt McLain and Brandon Williamson are dealing with shoulder injuries. While McLain's injury had initially been deemed minor, MRI results revealed something more. The Reds second baseman will now start the year on the injured list and receive a second opinion to determine the next course of action. Surgery has not been ruled out. Williamson's injury will land him on the IL to start the season.

TJ Friedl suffered a fractured wrist, and won't be reevaluated until at least three weeks from now. Alex Young has been dealing with back tightness and will begin the 2024 season on the IL. Fellow reliever Ian Gibaut hasn't thrown a pitch in a Cactus League game this spring while dealing with pronator strain in his forearm.

Unless further testing reveals something unforeseen, it's doubtful that Williamson will be saddled with the dreaded 60-day IL designation. Williamson was likely ticketed for Triple-A to start the season, and this setback could allow the southpaw to get some extra reps in down on the farm before returning to the big leagues.

TJ Friedl, Matt McLain & Ian Gibaut could all land on the 60-day IL

The three names that stick out are Friedl, McLain, and Gibaut. While it'll be three or four weeks before Friedl's recheck, one has to assume that it'll be over a month, and maybe more, before he returns to the diamond. A rehab stint will be necessary, and we could be talking every bit of two months before Friedl returns to the Reds lineup.

The extent of McLain's injury has not yet been revealed. But the fact that Cincinnati made a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays for Santiago Espinal should be a good indication that the Reds second baseman will miss a considerable amount of time.

Gibaut has not yet pitched in a game this spring, and that could very well be a sign that he's headed to the 60-day IL. The Reds have enough arms (especially if Santillan is added to the 40-man roster) to weather the storm until Gibaut is fully healthy.

At least one of Fernando Cruz or Tejay Antone will be starting the season at Triple-A, and Cincinnati also has Legumina, Connor Phillips, Carson Spiers, Lyon Richardson, and Christian Roa on the 40-man roster.

The Reds pitching depth would allow them to absorb the long-term loss of Gibaut instead of forcing Friedl to miss two months of action. Depending on the treatment plan for McLain following Wednesday's MRI, the Reds second baseman could find his way onto the 60-day IL too.

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