Denard Span started 122 games in center field for the Twins in 2012, while Ben Revere started 34 more. Both players were young, productive and reasonably inexpensive.
But that meant both were trade chips, and the Twins — who were going nowhere with or without Span and Revere — cashed them in during two separate deals for pitching prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May (along with Vance Worley, who flopped here but had a 2.85 ERA in 110 innings with the Pirates last year). Meyer and May could soon be long-term parts of the pitching rotation, and if they work out the trades will have been worth it. Either way, the deals were made with good intentions.
The main consequence, though, has been a gaping hole in center field these past two seasons. In trying to build a bridge to Byron Buxton, the Twins have more so assembled a loose network of wooden planks, abandoned aluminum boats and Styrofoam coolers. You can step on those things to get from there to here, but it’s not without challenges.
Aaron Hicks got the job out of camp in 2013, and he started 78 games in center but proved overmatched at the plate. Castoff Clete Thomas received another 48 starts in center, while Alex Pressly got 27.
Last year, it was another hodge-podge: Danny Santana, a converted shortstop, led the way with 62 starts in center; Hicks had 53 and Sam Fuld had 37.
It feels as though we are headed for one more year of this in 2015, reminding everyone that Buxton can’t get here soon enough (and that last year’s lost season was costly because otherwise he very well might be taking over right now). Jordan Schafer is in the mix to get a lot of starts. Hicks, again, is too. The Twins are even giving a long look to Eddie Rosario. Another stopgap — they always seem to come along — could wind up being a placeholder as well.
For the third straight year, the Twins figure to have the least amount of stability at one of the game’s most important positions.
Hurry, Byron. We can’t take much more.
The Vikings quietly had free-agent cornerback Terence Newman — another one of Mike Zimmer’s old players in Cincinnati — in for a visit yesterday, according to a report from NFL Network.
Newman was the fifth overall pick for the Cowboys in the 2003 draft. Yes, that was a long time ago by NFL standards, but even at 36, Newman was a decent player for the Bengals in 2014.
Zimmer was in Dallas when the Cowboys drafted Newman and coached him for four seasons there. In 2012, after Newman’s play dropped from a Pro Bowl level, he reunited with Zimmer in Cincinnati. Zimmer helped clean up his technique while coaxing two more productive seasons out of him.
Last season, with Zimmer in his first season as head coach of the Vikings, Newman wasn’t as sharp. He was graded as Pro Football Focus’ 76th-ranked cornerback in pass coverage. But he did start 13 games for the Bengals and was credited with 14 passes defended to go with one interception.
Newman, who turns 37 in September, will be one of the league’s oldest cornerbacks in 2015.
The Vikings soared to seventh in the league in pass defense under Zimmer. But their depth was not tested at cornerback as their top three cornerbacks — Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson — all played 16 games. The Vikings would be wise to add more bodies there, and if one of them could challenge Munnerlyn and Robinson for a starting spot, that would be a big bonus.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network also reported that Newman will meet with the Patriots today. So as was the case with free-agent defensive end Michael Johnson, the Vikings aren’t the only suitors.
The Vikings are adding University of Texas at El Paso assistant coach Robert Rodriguez to their coaching staff. Rodriguez will join second-year head coach Mike Zimmer’s staff as the assistant defensive line coach under defensive line coach Andre Patterson.
Rodriguez replaces Robb Akey, who joined the Redskins last month.
Rodriguez played linebacker at UTEP and is among the school’s all-time leaders in tackles. He spent time with the Panthers and Titans in 2005 but never played in a regular-season NFL game. He had stints in NFL Europe in 2006 and the CFL in 2006-07 before getting into coaching.
He joined UTEP’s staff as an assistant in 2008 and was promoted to linebackers coach in 2010. The past two years the 33-year-old was their nickels coach and assistant special teams coordinator.
Having missed out on Michael Johnson, the Vikings are turning their attention to George Selvie.
The Vikings are “getting a visit lined up” for the free-agent defensive end, according to an ESPN report. Selvie, who played for the Cowboys in 2014, has been on their radar since last week.
So who exactly is George Selvie? The journeyman defensive end has been with five teams since the Rams took a seventh-round flyer on him in the 2010 NFL draft. He has played for the Rams, the Panthers, the Jaguars, the Buccaneers and most recently the Cowboys in 2013 and 2014.
The 28-year-old finally settled in as a starter with the Cowboys, starting 29 of his 32 games there. He had 10 sacks the past two seasons with the Cowboys, but pass-rushing isn’t his strongest suit. He is a reliable run defender who Pro Football Focus graded as the 14th-best run defender among 4-3 defensive ends last season. He ranked 16th the previous season, according to PFF.
Selvie has predominantly been a left defensive end — Johnson is a right end — so if the Vikings are indeed displaying more interest in Selvie, it’s likely because they can envision him rotating with veteran Brian Robison at left end. Robison turns 32 next month and Scott Crichton, drafted in the third round last year to eventually replace Robison, did not play much on defense last season.
The Vikings struggled to defend the run last season, allowing 4.3 yards per carry, 24th in the NFL.