JUPITER, FL: Jack Cust #9 of the Houston Astros hits a foul ball during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
The New York Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor-league contract, which means they aren't really taking a risk. Which is good, because they shouldn't.
What I'm about to do is terribly unfair, but I'm going to do it anyway because it helps to support my angle. It's fine to do these things so long as you're up front about them, I'm pretty sure. Over the offseason the Houston Astros signed Jack Cust to a non-guaranteed contract, and they gave him an opportunity to compete for a major-league roster spot. Here's what Jack Cust has done in March:
Jack Cust batted 30 times in an Astros uniform down in Florida, and he picked up five walks and a hit. One hit, which was a single. You never want to read too deeply into spring-training statistics, but on Tuesday, Cust was released. The opportunity he was given, he no longer had.
I'm guessing that the reason the Astros weren't very patient is because they were looking for Cust to show some signs that his 2011 campaign was a fluke. With the Seattle Mariners, Cust batted .213 and OPS'd .673, which would be fine for a middle infielder or for a defensive-minded fourth outfielder, but which isn't so fine for a DH who can only fake it in the field. The Astros didn't see those signs, and so they let Cust go.
In a funny twist:
Was told today by source close to Cust that Cust would be signing minor-league deal with an NL team, but not Rockies.— Troy Renck, Rockies (@TroyRenck) March 28, 2012
Yanks have signed veteran Jack Cust to minor league deal. Released by Astros few days ago. Power bat, good insurance at AAA.— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) March 28, 2012
Those good ol' National League New York Yankees! Being a National League team, you'd think they'd have no use for a DH at all!
Jack Cust is with the Yankees now, and because he's signed a minor-league deal, this probably isn't worth the attention I'm giving it. But as long as I'm here, I'd like to point out that Sweeny Murti is wrong about two things. Jack Cust is no longer a power bat, and Jack Cust is no longer good insurance at triple-A.
I mean, I guess maybe. There are worse hitters than Cust in triple-A, for sure. But Jack Cust is 33 now, and check out what his home-run rate has done:
2007: 1 per 20 plate appearances
2008: 1 per 18
2009: 1 per 24
2010: 1 per 33
2011: 1 per 90
I could've shown you his isolated slugging percentage, but this paints a fine enough picture. Jack Cust's power might not be entirely gone, and he's better than that 2011 dinger rate above, but he's not Three True Outcomes Jack Cust anymore. He's kind of down to two of the outcomes.
He might be the most disciplined hitter in recent baseball history, and that's nice. Even without power, Cust with the Mariners reached base 34 percent of the time. But players who draw walks and lose their power tend to draw fewer walks as pitchers become more willing to attack the zone.
I don't know why the Yankees signed Jack Cust. I'll hazard a guess - they've been greatly underwhelmed by Raul Ibanez's miserable spring, and Russell Branyan has been hurt. They're still looking for a solution as the lefty half of the DH. But Jack Cust is almost certainly not that solution, not now, and there exists an excellent chance that this is the last thing you read about Jack Cust for some time.