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Monday, April 05, 2010

More on Cust DFA Fallout

I hate to let Opening Day be spoiled by bad feelings or any sort of controversy, but Jack Cust's reaction to being waived, and this oddly angry reaction by David Brown at Yahoo's Big League Stew deserve comment.  I don't want this blog to become a place where I defend all moves the A's make and perhaps I am guilty of giving Billy Beane the benefit of the doubt too often, but Brown's incredulous response to Cust's being DFA's doesn't make much sense to me.

I understand Cust's frustration with being waived.  Unfortunately, the more he talks, the more I agree with the decision to let him go.  To be clear, it's not the fact that his interviews have shown him to lack character or anything, it's that the (faulty) reasoning he uses makes it more apparent that the real mistake was signing Cust to the $2.65 million contract, not waiving him.

Cust's response to being DFA'd was (from the Chronicle):

"I think it's messed up.  They're going to go on 50 at-bats after three years of what I've done here? It's ridiculous. A lot of other guys have had bad springs. This is a joke.  The fact is, this team has no power and they've just released a guy who (averaged 28 homers) the last three years. That's amazing."

Again, I understand that he is frustrated, but Cust was far from a sure thing to provide power this season.  It's true that he averaged 28 homers over the past three years, but in his most recent season, the one that's the best indicator of future performance, he slugged .417.  Projections have him bouncing back to varying degrees.  ZIPS expects him to slug .428, CHONE projects a .441 SLG, while PECOTA has Cust slugging .443. 

What's left unstated is if Chavez as full-time DH is really the answer.  The short answer is no, it's probably not.  The longer (and more accurate) answer is that Chavez probably isn't the intended answer.  As much weight as we give to the decisions about who makes the team out of Arizona, these decisions don't necessarily indicate who will get the bulk of the playing time come June.  First, I'd expect Jake Fox and/or Eric Patterson to get a fair share of PAs at DH in the coming weeks.  But what I am more sure of is Chavez breaking down relatively quickly.  Once he hits the DL this would allow the A's to do any number of things, such as recalling Landon Powell so the A's have a true backup catcher - or calling up Jack Cust to DH.

Perhaps the A's should have released Chavez instead.  The last time Chavez over .440 was in 2007.  Cust slugged .504 that season.  A week ago when I was pretty certain Cust would be the every day DH I started working on a post that I'd titled "What's an Eric Chavez for?"  It didn't get too far because, well, Chavez isn't good for much.  He can theoretically back up third and first base, but so can Adam Rosales and (maybe) Jake Fox.  It's hard to him imagine outslugging Cust.  I would have totally understood releasing him, though the resulting backlash may have been worse than the Cust fall out.

That the A's are were stuck with two not very good DH choices does reflect a lack of foresight on behalf of the A's front office.  Re-signing Cust before realizing how cheaply DH types were going for (and how cheap Jake Fox was to trade for) was a mistake.  Jim Thome, who out slugged Cust last year by nearly 75 points signed a $1.5 million deal.  (Though, to be fair, CHONE and ZIPS project a steep decline starting this year).  Maybe there was a one-year deal out there that Johnny Damon would have taken.  Maybe Russell Branyan would have been a good fit...or Ryan Garko...or Jermaine Dye.

The bottom line is this, though.  The A's are going to have trouble scoring runs this year and they don't have an ideal solution at DH.  Most of the starters lose their value once fielding is removed from the equation so the rotating DH model that other teams might employ to keep guys healthy won't really work for the A's.  What they need is a masher and its unclear if Cust is that guy.  Even though he won't start the year trying to prove that he is, I wouldn't be surprised if he is the A's every day DH come June.

1 comment:

  1. I can see why they cut him - he's unplayably bad in the OF corners, and they need the DH spot to get their young guys at-bats. But he was still the best hitter on the team, even hitting .240. There's got to be someone who wanted to trade for a lefty DH.