Describing Jack Cust as a utility or journeyman probably plays up his flexibility. He sort of fits the profile the Astros could need in 2013 for a DH, and this was probably the thinking behind giving him a one-year deal with a club option for next year.
But what the hell are you going to do with him this year? He plays the outfield worse than Carlos Lee and we already have a complete overload of bats in the outfield. At least Travis Buck has relative youth on his side, Cust turned 33 two days ago. I might have even preferred to snap up Mark Teahen, who could at least play a bit of third base.
Still, if there is one thing Cust does well, it is drawing walks, to the tune of a 17.2% BB rate. Everything else, not so much. Bill James' 2012 projections give him a bit of a renaissance, with a creditable .237/.376/.401 line.
But this was a guy who was cut by the Seattle Mariners last year, and picked up by the Phillies without making it onto their major league roster. Jeff Sullivan, an expert on all things Mariners, has the following observations:
I watched a ton of the Seattle Mariners last season. And while watching the Seattle Mariners last season, I couldn't help but arrive at the conclusion that Jack Cust is finished.
There is the worrying downward trend in his power numbers:
In 2008, Cust hit 30 percent of his fly balls for home runs. Then 18 percent. Then 15 percent. Then six percent. Last season, Jack Cust hit three home runs. He slugged .329.
Look at it this way, he is cheaper than Preston Wilson, Pedro Feliz and Bill Hall were and we're not expecting him to start. But he does sort of fit that mold, signing a veteran expecting him to rebound based on no evidence. Perhaps he can serve as our strikezone coach, teaching the other players how to earn free passes (see Quintero, Humberto, and half our 25-man roster).
Or perhaps Luhnow wanted the Astros to get some air time, or he wanted to distract attention from the fact we are going to pay J.A. Happ $2.35m next year.