Welcome to Alternate Universe Padres, a recurring series where I take current Padres news and analyze it in an Alternate Universe.
Well, this is a new one. This week’s amphetamines suspension for Cameron Maybin marked the first time in franchise history that a Padre has ever been suspended for PEDs. As this is his first offense, and given the fact that he’s set a league-wide example by taking all his drug tests publicly, I wholeheartedly believe that there was a clerical paper error at the root of this positive test.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the team, though. Trailing the Mets by just a game for the one seed in the NL, the Padres have little margin for error if they want to lock down home field advantage. And Maybin, coming off his record-setting fourth straight cycle, was certainly not the guy you wanted to see go down. (This also effectively ends any chance of Maybin, currently at 27/31, becoming the first 40/40 Padre.)
The good news is that the Padres have two great options, though I am not sure which they should choose.
Do they start the arbitration clock of budding superstar Donavan Tate or simply push Kellen Kulbacki over to center for the next 25 games? Let’s break it down.
Calling up Tate
On the surface, calling up Tate is the logical choice. His numbers in Portland are insane and all projection systems see favorable results. He’s also reputedly great in the clubhouse, which would be the only real concern with how he’ll fit in with this team.
Starting Tate’s arbitration clock seems docile enough, but could cause complications down-the-line. For example, if it forces the Padres to extend him a year sooner than expected then, given the Cano contract and the last few seasons of Adrian’s extension, that could actually put the Padres too far in the luxury tax for Jeff Moorad’s liking. Moorad hasn’t been one to eschew spending, but I don’t want to risk having to part with one of our four closers in 2018 just for a small improvement over 25 games in 2014.
Maybe I’m just reading too much into this, though, and the bearded altruist will pick up the tab regardless.
Moving Kulbacki to Center
What a long way he’s come. Kellen swiftly dismissed draft experts who questioned whether or not his bat was a product of aluminum bats and a favorable playing environment; optimistic Padres fans were not surprised. What has been surprising, though, is that the stout, “relegated to the corners” Kulbacki has turned himself into a plus defender. (Privately, Kellen credits his two-a-day hot yoga regimen.)
Whatever the reason, the Padres now have the opportunity to push Kulbacki to center field in the interim and use one of their emergency reserve outfielders, ie. Seth Smith, in right until Maybin returns. The Padres would then call up Will Venable from AAA to resume Seth Smith’s reserve role.
In this scenario, the Padres get the benefit of a) prolonging Tate’s first arbitration hearing, potentially alleviating luxury tax concerns down-the-line, b) finding out whether or not Kulbacki can play center (which would prove one way or the other the hotly debated topic of whether they should have signed Ellsbury to backup Cameron Maybin last winter), and c) rewarding 31 year-old franchise journeyman Will Venable with his big league first cup of coffee.
The downside, of course, is that we have to wait additional time to finally feast our eyes on Donavan Tate’s unquestioned five tool abilities.
Regardless of which direction they go, I would hate to be the guy to get this decision wrong. Potentially paying Tate a year early or losing one extra game down the stretch because of Kulbacki’s perceived lack of range would both hurt the team. Thank God we have Jed to make these tough decisions!