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Looking ahead to upcoming Cleveland Indians roster decisions

Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall should both returning this month, and that means more moves will be coming.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians have been busy clearing roster space over this past week, but they are not done yet. On Sunday they traded James Ramsey and Zach Walters to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash, and yesterday they dealt Giovanni Soto to the Chicago Cubs for cash. These were not just deals to get those cheep dolanz some more spending money, they were necessary moves to free up roster spots. More of these will be coming soon.

Outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley are expected to begin their rehab assignemtns today in Columbus, assuming the Clippers actually get to play a game for once. Chisenhall will just need to make sure nothing has gotten worse with his bad forearm, and could be back in the majors within the week. Brantley, on the other hand, needs to prove that he can bounce back after a game and keep playing. He has not played in a game with the major-league squad since a single spring training start in late March.

The easiest, and most likely, solution is to release the two most expendable outfielders on the current 25-man roster. Looking at their production over the first few games, that answer is clearly Marlon Byrd and Collin Cowgill. Combined, Byrd and Collin are 2-for-15 with eight strikeouts over the first four games.

If the Indians want to avoid losing another player for nothing, they could also consider optioning Tyler Naquin. You could make the argument that the 24-year-old would be better off getting everyday playing time in Triple-A instead of riding the bench so often in the majors. So far he has been strictly platooned against right-handed pitchers, and if that is not going to change anytime soon, he may be sitting more than playing over the next few weeks.

Tommy Hunter, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list with an abdomen injury, has already started his rehab assignment in Columbus. If Terry Francona plans on keeping an eight-man bullpen -- which he probably does -- then a major-league reliever will need to be optioned. Cody Allen, Zac McAllister, Trevor Bauer, Ross Detwiler, and maybe Jeff Manship should be considered "untouchable" as far as releasing or trading goes just to free up a roster spot. So that leaves Joba Chamberlain, Dan Otero, and Bryan Shaw as being on the potential chopping block.

Francona has some bizarre obsession with Bryan Shaw, so I cannot see him leaving right away. I would expect one of Joba Chamberlain or Dan Otero to be designated for assignment when Hunter comes off the disabled list. No matter which one it is, Hunter should be an immediate upgrade.

Much further down the road will also be the decision about Craig Stammen. The Washington Nationals non-tendered Stammen after an injury-shortened 2015 season and he has not thrown in a game since last April. Then, this past offseason, the Indians signed him to a minor-league deal. Stammen began throwing live batting practice in early March, but I have heard little of his progress since then. If he does make the 40-man roster at some point, the Indians will owe him $3 million.