The Cleveland Indians have gone on a bit of a free agent spending spree lately. Nothing huge, mind you, but they did add veterans Rajai Davis, Mike Napoli, over the last two days. Because of this, they will need to trim some space on the 40-man roster.
By most estimates, the Indians should have until Friday to start making their decisions. At the very least Mike Napoli is scheduled to take his physical Friday, according to Paul Hoynes, so Rajai Davis may be doing his on the same day as well. So, assuming they both pass and are signed, who gets the axe?
The most obvious candidate, if there is a baseball god, is Jerry Sands. Despite some heroics early in the season, Sands looked awful over his 133 plate appearances in 2015. He slashed .236/.286/.390 while playing a below-average mix of first base, left field, and right field. With the addition of Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli, that eliminates the need for Sands at all these positions. Having one player who can handle that many defensive positions is great, but not when they bat as poorly as Jerry.
Next, it gets a bit trickier.
Joey Butler is potentially another option, unfortunately. In examining how the Indians could "Frankenstein" an outfielder out of their recent acquisitions, it became apparent that Butler is one of the best they acquired (prior to Davis, of course). However, Butler was just a waiver claim, and his splits do not line up well with the Indians needs. Right now, the Tribe primarily need someone to hit against lefties, even after signing Davis, so someone like Collin Cowgill makes more sense to hold onto. Butler may be a better overall hitter, but Cowgill fits better.
After that… do they dare shred another outfielder? Even if the Indians designate Butler and Sands for assignment that still leaves eight on the 40-man roster: Abraham Almonte, Michael Branley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Collin Cowgill, Tyler Naquin, James Ramsey, Zach Walters, and Rajai Davis.
I cannot imagine the Indians letting James Ramsey hit the waiver wire just weeks after protecting from the Rule 5 draft. Zach Walters was mostly ineffective in 2015 and is coming off shoulder surgery on October 4. He is expected to return to baseball activities sometime in April.
If the Indians are truly ready to give up on Jesus Aguilar, he could also be cut from the roster. Aguilar has been a solid hitter in the minor leagues, but his bat has never translated to the Majors. Mike Napoli may only be around for a year, but he instantly makes Aguilar irrelevant on the 40-man roster.
Tony Wolters also remains on the 40-man rosters for reasons unknown to mankind, so he is another potential candidate to get the axe. Designating Wolters would mean the Indians only have two catchers on the 40-man roster, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, but they recently signed Anthony Recker to a minor league deal and they could easily activate him if one of the other two is injured. Conversely, Wolters is still not anywhere near Major League-ready.
EDIT: Previously I had the number at three, but Paul Hoynes revealed the Joe Thatcher deal is a minor league contract, so only two roster spots will need to be addressed.