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Mariners, Cust on verge of deal

| December 9, 2010 8:00 PM

Free-agent slugger Jack Cust and the Mariners agreed to a one-year contract Wednesday, giving Seattle a veteran designated hitter heading into 2011.

A person with knowledge of the deal said that the sides were finalizing details of a contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Cust still must take a physical before a formal announcement is made. That might not come until after the conclusion of baseball's winter meetings today in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Cust spent the past four seasons with Seattle's AL West rival Oakland and likely will become the Mariners' regular DH, though he also provides versatility for new manager Eric Wedge with the ability to play the outfield.

"I've seen Jack play for, again, a long time from the other side of the diamond," Wedge said Wednesday at the meetings in Florida. "He's a tremendous talent. We're just going to have to see how it plays out. Nothing's done yet. Obviously we like Jack. I've liked him personally as a manager for another ballclub.

"When we talk about what we're trying to do offensively, you can hear me talk about quality at-bats, good at-bats, strong at-bats, making good outs. Working and making it tough on that pitcher. I think he does a lot of that."

The Athletics didn't offer a contract to Cust last week, making him a free agent. He hit .272 with 13 homers and 52 RBIs in 112 games last season. He added 68 walks for a .395 on-base percentage.

Cust began last season with Triple-A Sacramento before being called up in mid-May. The A's designated Cust for assignment after spring training, then he cleared waivers and reported to Triple-A. That was after he hit a team-high 25 homers for Oakland in 2009, but also led the AL in strikeouts for the third consecutive season (164, 197, 185).

The 31-year-old Cust is a career .245 hitter with 102 homers and 300 RBIs in parts of parts of nine major league seasons.

Seattle had plenty of holes to fill after finishing last in the AL West last season after being picked to win the division by many before the year. It was the club's second time in the division cellar in three years - with the Mariners going 61-101 in both 2008 and 2010.

Cust will be part of a young, inexperienced roster featuring a handful of veterans such as right fielder Ichiro Suzuki - who just won his 10th straight Gold Glove - and 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez.

Cust was selected 30th overall in the first round of the 1997 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the pending deal. A phone message was left by the AP seeking comment from Cust.

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