Wednesday Roundup: A call, a catcher and an update

GM, President face the fans

Twins General Manager Bill Smith and team President Dave St. Peter held a conference call with season ticket holders yesterday. The Strib provided a good roundup here, but below I've pulled out some highlights. If you were on the call and have some insights to add, we'd love to read them in the comments section:

Michael Cuddyer

Smith said he'd like to see Michael Cuddyer finish his career as a Twin. As we all know, Cuddyer is a free agent this off-season. There is every reason to think the Twins are making re-signing Cuddyer a priority this off-season: he was one of the (very) few bright spots last season, and he provides valuable insurance for Morneau at first.

Joe Nathan

Even if Nathan's 2012 option isn't picked up, the team is interested in keeping him. This makes perfect sense - the bullpen was a disaster last season, Nathan pitched effectively after his return in July, and he has always been an ideal organizational guy. The big question: how much and for how many years? Joe will turn 37 in November.

Off-Season Priorities

Bill Smith's list: A starting pitcher, some relief help and a back-up catcher. He said the team also needs to "figure out" shortstop - specifically citing the poor defense at the position this season - and that the team may be looking outside the organization for help.

This pretty much sums up the holes on the team that can't simply be filled by praying for good players to get healthy. It was heartening to see Smith mentioning the need for a back-up catcher, seeing as how he shipped off Wilson Ramos and Jose Morales over the past two seasons. More on that topic below. Also, if you haven't read Steve Adams piece on one possible starting pitching target from yesterday, click here.

Read more after the jump:

Jim Thome

Smith said it's unlikely the team will re-sign Jim Thome. No surprises here. Jim Thome is a luxury no 99-loss team should seriously consider.

The Park

According to Smith, the team will not be changing the dimensions at Target Field, despite "pleas" from Twins hitters. This raises the obvious question: is Target Field so unfair to hitters that the organization needs to bring in the fences?

I don't claim to be an expert on Park Factors, and I know there are some pretty big disagreements on the best way to calculate them (here's one example). I do know that most experts will say you need at least three seasons worth of data to make a fair judgment about a park's "fairness" to hitters and pitchers, which obviously we don't have yet for Target Field. Those caveats aside, here is what a couple sources say about the Twins home park:

ESPN ranked Target Field as the 10th most pitcher-friendly park in 2011, and just the 12th most pitcher friendly park in 2010. It ranked as the 11th toughest park to homer in this season, and single toughest park to homer in during 2010. That disparity is probably a great example of why you need several seasons' worth of data on a park to make any accurate judgments on how it impacts hitters and pitchers.

Baseball Reference thinks Target Field is a slight pitcher's park, scoring the park as a 95 this season and a combined 98 between 2010 and 2011 (Park Factors set a neutral park at 100, with anything below 100 representing a pitchers park). For reference, BRef lists PETCO in San Diego as a 93 and AT&T Park in San Francisco as a 94.

Is Chris Iannetta available?

As mentioned above, one of the Twins priorities this off-season is finding a back-up catcher that can out-hit Johan Santana. Enter this piece from Jim Armstrong at the Denver Post:

"Seven years after being drafted by the Rockies and five years after he first put on their major-league uniform, the question remains: Is [Chris] Iannetta the solution behind the plate?

More and more, the answer appears to be no for the long term, what with youngster Wilin Rosario receiving most of the playing time in September. All signs point to the 22-year-old Rosario eventually winning the job."

In fairness, the article predicts Iannetta will hold the job through 2012 with Rosario possibly taking over the full-time starting gig in 2013. But what if Iannetta becomes available this off-season? In my mind, he could be an almost ideal fit for the Twins.

As a right-handed catcher who takes walks and hits for some power, Iannetta would not only be the perfect compliment to a healthy Joe Mauer, but also the perfect contingency plan in case Mauer's health problems continue in 2012. He hit 238/370/414 this season, pretty much in line with his career averages.

The biggest strike against him as a potential trade target? His career home/road splits. Away from Coors, Iannetta has hit just 208/338/369 in 870 plate appearances in his career. While his .707 road OPS represents a huge drop from his production in Colorado, the average OPS of all Major League catchers last season was just .703. Drew Butera posted a .449 OPS.

Iannetta is due $3.55 million in 2012 (age 29 season) and the Rockies hold a $5 million club option for 2013.

Update: Former Twins in the Playoffs

Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee: Gomez has only played one inning so far in the Brewers-Diamondbacks series, with Nyjer Morgan getting the starts in center for Milwaukee.

Delmon Young, Detroit: Yeah, Delmon's having himself a pretty good series against the Yankees. He's hit in the three-hole in all four games for the Tigers, and in 17 plate appearances he's hit 267/353/667 with two homers (including the go-ahead shot in Game 3).

Henry Blanco, Arizona: Has not had an appearance yet. Miguel Montero has caught all three games for the Diamondbacks.

LaTroy Hawkins, Brewers: LaTroy pitched a single scoreless inning in the Brewers Game 2 victory over the Diamondbacks.

Nick Punto, Cardinals: LaRussa has used Punto as a pinch hitter twice this post-season, and has been rewarded with a strikeout and a weak fly out.

Kyle Lohse, Cardinals: Lohse was the Cardinals Game 1 starter. Lohse held the Phillies to one run through five innings, but then got shelled in the sixth. Both Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez homered off Lohse in the inning, and he left giving up 6 runs (5 earned) in 5.1 innings.

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