An era ends in Oakland

An era is over:


    Jack Cust became a free agent Saturday when the Oakland Athletics failed to offer him a 2010 contract.

    Cust hit .240 with 25 homers and 70 RBIs last season but struck out 195 times, becoming the first player to lead in the AL in three straight seasons since Minnesota's Bobby Darwin from 1972-74. Cust whiffed 164 times in 2007 and 197 times in 2008.


    General manager Billy Beane has been determined to add more power to the lineup. The A's last week acquired third baseman Jake Fox from the Chicago Cubs largely because they like Fox's bat.

I like Cust as much as the next guy -- more, probably -- but this is exactly what you're supposed to do with marginal major leaguers like Cust: get the most out of them when they're young and cheap, and then dump them.

That's harsh, I know. If someone asks Billy Beane, he'll couch Cust's non-tendering in far friendlier terms. But he might also talk about Cust's "trendline" -- I haven't talked to him lately, but that used to be one of his favorite words -- and Cust's trendline is heading in the wrong direction.

In 2007, when Cust's services were essentially free, he hit .256/.408/.504.

In 2008, when he still was basically free ($410,000), he hit .231/.375/.476.

And in 2009, when he cost $2.8 million, he hit .240/.356/.417.

That's a steeper decline than we would have guessed, and so we might expect a bit of a comeback in 2010. Is it worth spending more than $4 million to find out, though? Probably not. This probably ends soon, and not prettily.

It's funny; I thought Fox and Cust would be perfect platoon partners. Was sort of looking forward to it, in fact. But with prospect Brett Wallace on the fast track, non-prospect Daric Barton might soon find himself in a limited role ... say, platoon with Fox?

Hey, a guy can dream a little, right?