02/25/10 6:15 PM EST
Cust excited to be back in A's camp
Slugger tested free-agent market before re-signing
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
Oakland's 31-year-old slugger, decked out in black Nike Livestrong gear, made a grand entrance in the early morning hours of reporting day for position players. Teammates pounced on him left and right while he shared news of the recent birth of his second daughter.
It was a sight many in the A's community -- including Cust -- were uncertain they'd see following an offseason that watched him test the free-agent market when Oakland decided to non-tender his contract.
"I didn't really know how it was going to be," Cust said. "But when it came down to it, it just wasn't a very good market unless you're Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. Even for those guys, I don't think the interest level was as high as they may have thought it to be. Unless you're one of those big dudes, you take what you can get."
Cust said he always kept Oakland as an option while testing the waters elsewhere, including places that would keep him near his family in New Jersey. In the end, though, comfort and familiarity reigned over other thoughts.
"Every day seemed like there was a different team interested, but you don't ever know how interested they are or what they're looking to do with their roster," Cust explained. "But I knew the way this roster was shaping up, ultimately this is a place where I knew from the beginning they'd like me back. Knowing that was comforting to me.
"It would have been nice getting a little closer to home, but when it came down to it, it was just about the familiarity of being here and the relationships I have here with some of the guys. To me, it wasn't worth the hassle of waiting any longer or seeing what might happen. I just figured I want to stay where I'm comfortable."
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His decision ultimately came down to a $2.65 million contract that could eclipse the $2.8 million he made in 2009 if he has 600 plate appearances this season. Last year, Cust hit .240 with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs to go along with a .356 on-base percentage in 513 at-bats through 149 games. He has led the A's in home runs in each of the last three seasons, with 33 in 2008 and 26 in 2007, and expects to do the same this year.
For now, though, Cust is simply anxious to take the field with a reconstructed A's team that now boasts the likes of Ben Sheets, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Coco Crisp.
"There are a lot of good players who don't have a job right now, so I'm just excited to have a uniform on my back and be able to go out and show everybody what I can do," Cust said. "I like that we got Ben Sheets, a proven winner, an All-Star who is going to pitch real well in our ballpark. I like the speed of the lineup and the guys we have to get on base. For me it will help a lot, so I'm excited to have guys like that at the top of the lineup."
Cust said he was able to gain the 15 pounds he lost during the 2009 season and now weighs in at about 240. A gym frequenter during the offseason, he had to slow down his workouts this past week after his wife, Jennifer, gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Sophia Lily -- who joins 3 1/2-year-old Ava Rose -- on Feb. 17. Cust's wife had to induce labor in order to allow her husband some moments with their newborn before shipping off to camp.
"Usually I try to get out here earlier, but I figured I'd spend a little time with my family while I can," Cust said. "I'll miss them, but it's time to get to work."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.