Jack Cust -- who was non-tendered by Oakland for a second straight year last week after a 2010 season that resulted in a .271 average, 13 home runs and 52 RBIs -- agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Seattle. Thus, the Mariners are seemingly now out of the race for Hideki Matsui, who appears to be at the top of Oakland's list to fill the club's designated-hitter role.
The A's have shown a strong level of interest in acquiring the 36-year-old slugger. On Monday, general manager Billy Beane met with Matsui's agent, Arn Tellem, at the Winter Meetings. Tellem refused to reveal any information that came out of the gathering but expressed important factors his client will be considering -- all of which the A's presumably could provide.
"I think he wants to play on a regular basis and contribute to a team, and be on a team with a chance to be competitive in the race and looking for the support of a positive environment," Tellem said. "I believe we'll find one of those."
Though some see Matsui on the downside of his career, he still boasts the potential to produce runs for the A's, who in 2010 had the league's fourth-lowest runs total. They also ranked second to last in the American League in home runs (109), extra-base hits (415), slugging percentage (.378) and batting average with runners in scoring position (.241).
Matsui, who made $6 million this year, hit .274 with a .820 OPS, 21 homers and 84 RBIs in 482 at-bats with the Angels in 2010. Oakland's home run and RBIs leader was Kevin Kouzmanoff, who tallied 16 long balls and drove in 71 runs in 551 at-bats.
Meanwhile, Cust's agreement with Seattle officially ends his four-year stint in Oakland, where he hit .247 with 97 home runs, 281 RBIs, 377 walks and 673 strikeouts in 533 games during that span. The 31-year-old slugger's relationship with the A's endured a rough patch in April, when the club designated him for assignment in a surprising series of events just two days before Opening Day.
"It was just a weird circumstance," Cust told MLB.com on Wednesday. "I'm sure they'd say I struggled in spring and what I did the three years before wasn't good enough to make that team, I guess. But I'm just trying to stay positive with all this. When I talk about Oakland last year especially, it's definitely not a very positive experience for me. So I'm trying to block that out a little. My wife just tells me to stay positive. I don't know what happened. But things happen for a reason, and now I'm in Seattle."
Cust remained with the team the rest of the season but figured to be a prime non-tender candidate when the A's expressed interest in shaking up the lineup. He is expected to jump right into full-time DH duties with Seattle, another team looking to upgrade its offense after a disappointing 61-101 season.
"You want to go where you're wanted," Cust said. "In Oakland, even though I always did pretty well there and was kind of what the Oakland A's are about -- hitting home runs and walking -- I never really felt the love there. Being wanted and getting a fresh start is something I wanted last year, but it couldn't get done. This year, it's in place."
A's assistant general manager David Forst, while addressing local reporters on Wednesday evening, recognized Cust's desire for a new environment and expressed well wishes for him."Good for Jack," Forst said. "I know he wanted to go somewhere, do something quickly and go somewhere where he was wanted, so good for him."