After dealing Milledge, Nationals continue outfield shakeup by demoting Dukes to Triple-A

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One day after shaking up their outfield by sending Lastings Milledge to the Pirates while bringing in Nyjer Morgan, the Nationals demoted Elijah Dukes to Triple-A this morning.

Dukes hasn’t been a disaster at the plate, batting .244/.308/.415 with
six homers and 20 total extra-base hits in 57 games, but he struggled
in June and the Nationals are reportedly unhappy with his defense, baserunning, and overall approach.

All of which sounds an awful lot like their reasoning for selling low
on Milledge, complete with not realizing that struggling in center
field doesn’t preclude someone from being a defensive asset in a corner
spot. Milledge is now out of the picture completely and Dukes is headed
to Syracuse, yet Austin Kearns sticks around despite hitting
.197/.330/.322 in 58 games this season after batting .217/.311/.316 in
2008.

The difference, of course, is that Milledge and Dukes are both young
players with minor-league options remaining and some value on the trade
market while Kearns is a 29-year-old veteran making $8 million. So
instead of writing him off as a sunk cost and giving his playing time
to younger outfielders in what’s destined to be another 100-loss season
the Nationals are … well, I’m not entirely sure what the Nationals
are doing.

A mid-April demotion to Triple-A paved the way for Milledge being
traded and if they take that path with Dukes the Nationals will have
parted with two promising-yet-troubled outfielders when their values
were at all-time lows. Dukes has flaws both on and off the field, but
he’s hit .237/.345/.435 with 29 homers, 66 total extra-base hits, and
101 walks in 190 games, is a good defensive corner outfielder, and
turned 25 last week.

Watch: Mike Trout ties MLB record with his 25th home run

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It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:

In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.

Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.

Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.

Blue Jays acquire Tom Koehler from Marlins

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The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.

The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.

Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.