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Cust And Olivo

Jack Cust
The Mariners made a couple moves during the recently completed winter meetings. Well, actually only one is official so far, but they both will be in a manner of time.

To start with, Jack Cust is officially under contract for one year, to serve as the primary designated hitter. Zduriencik talked about the power he brings to the table, which is probably his calling card. Eric Wedge talked about the professional at-bats he will bring, as his high walk and strike out rates attest to. Both outcomes require a hitter to see quite a few pitches.

I am not a big fan of the signing though. At first glance, Cust seems to be a good fit for Safeco, and a clear upgrade to the lineup. However, as Dave Cameron pointed out on USS Mariner, his power isn't to right field. Last year, most of Cust's home runs went to left-center, which just so happens to be the deepest part of Safeco Field.

Also, Cust's power has clearly diminished the past three seasons. His ISO has gone from .245 to .177 to .166, and at 31 years old, there is no good reason to think the trend is going to reverse. In fact, given that Cust is getting older, and also moving to less hitter-friendly park that happens to be biggest where he tends to hit his home runs, his power could plummet this season. Combine that with the inevitable regression his .387 BABIP will take, and we are talking about a DH that hits .240 with great patience, an absurd strikeout rate, and marginal power. Personally, I would take my chances on a rebound from Milton Bradley.

With all that said, Cust was only signed to a one-year deal for a few million dollars, and the M's DHs as a collective whole were a black hole in 2010. Plus, if Cust is seen as the "gritty veteran" type that will show the youngsters the ropes, then he is worth the investment. I still wouldn't consider him the primary DH, but even with as luke warm as I am on the move, it is hard to really scorn signing him.

The one that is easy to get upset about is the still unofficial acquisition of Miguel Olivo. He has reportedly signed for two years and seven million dollars (total).

To start with, I see the logic in bringing in a catcher to at least split time with Adam Moore. He wasn't ready last year, and it wouldn't be ideal to count on him to carry the load in 2011.

There are so many reasons that Miguel Olivo is not the right guy for the job, in Seattle at least.

Even though it was a while ago now, I'm sorry, Olivo was horrible in Seattle. He looked completely lost at the plate, and wasn't exactly stellar behind it, either. How many companies return to an idea that completely flamed out five years ago to solve a problem that ails them currently? Signing Olivo does not pass any sort of common sense test.

There are more logical reasons to think that this was a bad move too. Olivo has always struck out a ton, never taken his fair share of walks, and never hit for a good average. He is a one trick pony in the batter's box, and that trick is power. Granted, it is a good trick to have, but once it is gone, Miguel has nothing to fall back on.

Given that Olivo is a right-handed hitter that pulls everything, his power will already be zapped by Safeco Field's dimensions. What's also worth noting is that it's not just his home runs that will be hit - Coors Field has expansive gaps, which are also tremendous for hitting doubles and triples. Judging from Olivo's splits last year, he took advantage of that, and that advantage is now gone.

Furthermore, Miguel is now 32 years old. In catching terms, he is in the danger zone where guys trail off in a hurry. Given that he only has one tool, he won't age gracefully. Olivo is likely to be the type that will hit a wall, seemingly overnight, and never rebound.

Signing a guy whose ability to could evaporate any time now, in a place where he already flamed out, and a ballpark built to suppress what tools he has, is a dumb idea. I don't care how small the deal is, it's a dumb idea.

It is even dumber when a guy like Gregg Zaun was still around. He could have been a veteran presence that split time with Moore, and given the team professional at-bats. He doesn't have Olivo's power, but he also doesn't have the risk of same kind of "disaster factor," as I like to call it.

The Mariners need to know they won't have a black hole at catcher in 2011. Miguel Olivo doesn't guarantee that. I suppose he makes it less likely, but that's mostly because he is a third option, not because of anything he brings to the table.

Actually, to be 100% honest, how much of Olivo's reputation is built off the 23 home run year he had with the Royals in 2009? He's never come close to offensive numbers like that in any other year, even the one he just spent in Coors Field. There are six other seasons where Olivo has accumulated at least 300 plate appearances, and in none of those he had a slugging percentage over .450, or come close to 20 home runs.

Oh, and like Cust, Olivo had an unusually high BABIP last season. Part of that is likely due to the large gaps in Coors Field, but that only further hammers home the point that he is highly unlikely to replicate  his 2010 production. Olivo could be the same hitter he was last year, and purely based on BABIP regression, hit closer to .235, instead of around .270. Add in the league switch, the ballpark factor, and Olivo's aging, and how exactly will he be worth seven million dollars over the next two seasons?

I understood that the Mariners were going to have a quiet offseason, but the moves they make should make them better. I think it is debatable whether Jack Cust helps them out or not. I really don't see how Miguel Olivo is helpful at all.

Where has Jack Z's front office acumen gone?