The Jack Cust Rumor
According to Susan Slusser, the Mariners are nearing an agreement with Jack Cust. John Hickey reports that the deal probably won’t happen here at the winter meetings, however, and suggests that the M’s might leave Orlando with just their Rule 5 picks added to the roster. But, regardless, it sounds like it may indeed happen, so let’s talk about Cust for a bit.
Like Russell Branyan, he is the quintessential three true outcomes type of hitter. A huge proportion of his at-bats will end with a walk, a strikeout, or a home run – for his career, 53 percent of his plate appearances have ended with the defense being irrelevant. While Branyan emphasized the HR and K aspects of those “three true outcomes”, Cust is more of a BB and K guy. He showed some big time power in 2007 and 2008, but has seen that go south a bit the last two years, as he’s attempted to cut down on the copious amounts of whiffs. The power-for-strikeouts trade-off has not been worth it, of course, as home runs are more good than strikeouts are bad.
While Cust’s .371 wOBA last year looks pretty good, and is actually equal to his 2008 season when he hit 33 home runs, it is almost entirely built around a crazy high .387 batting average on balls in play, which would be unsustainable for someone like Ichiro, and for a plodding DH like Cust is almost unfathomable. For reference, his career BABIP before last season was .325. There is simply no way that Cust puts up anything close to that BABIP again, and unless his power comes back, that’s a pretty big problem.
For reference, 2009 Cust combined middling power with a reasonable BABIP and posted a much more ordinary .342 wOBA. As a guy who is essentially a DH-only player, that makes him just a bit better than replacement level. Jack Cust isn’t awful, but he’s not particularly good either. If his power returns, he could be a league average player, or maybe a tick better. If his power doesn’t come back, well… he’ll be better than Bradley was last year, I guess.
We’ll have to wait and see what the money looks like. I wouldn’t give Cust more than $3 or $4 million, personally. Hopefully he didn’t get any more than that. As for the rest of the roster, this pushes Bradley into the role of spelling Saunders in left and Cust at DH, mostly against LHPs. If they actually intend to keep him, they now have to keep him happy while also keeping him on the bench most days. Good luck!