BRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, too.
Beware of any piece that begins, "If ever there was a time to play Jack Cust in the outfield..." because that time may well only be 13 o'clock or Eleventeen-thirty. But let's look at what appears to be Plan A for the A's -- to sign Adrian Beltre and Lance Berkman, along with "You need to give your agent a good spanking and then sign here" Hasashi Iwakuma. My gut feeling is that Berkman will be signed (RotoWorld describes the A's pursuit of Berkman as "fervent"), that Beltre won't (though he's probably looking at the best overall offer he's going to get, so it's certainly a real possibility), and this post doesn't really depend on Iwakuma so we won't worry about that right now.
However, let's say the A's ink both Beltre and Berkman, which they appear to be going "all in" to do. If ever there was a time to re-sign Jack Cust to play in the outfield..it's with this particular ensemble around him.
The best place to endure a bad fielder is at a COF spot, not "up the middle" or on the infield behind a ground ball staff. If you bat Cust high up in the order, you can probably get 4 PAs from him for only 6-7 innings of defense.
If you put Cust in RF until his 4th at bat (to be replaced by Ryan Sweeney for the late innings), you'd have 6-7 innings of Cust flanked by a plus LFer in DeJesus, a plus CFer in Crisp, and arguably a "gold glove infield" in Beltre, Pennington, Ellis, and Barton. With Cust, that is, in the balance, a very good defensive team.
The A's, thanks in part to their excellent defense overall, have a strong and deep pitching staff. And check out your starting lineup:
Crisp - CF
Barton - 1B
Cust - RF
Beltre - 3B
Berkman - DH
DeJesus - LF
Suzuki - C
Ellis - 2B
Pennington - SS
Yowza, that could win, no? Sure, there will be those occasional moments when Cust butchers a ball in RF and it seems like a terrible idea, but baseball is played over the long haul. And in the long haul, I think this combination of pitching, defense, and hitting works. Do you?