Rangers keeping in touch with Nelson Cruz, could re-sign him if price becomes “reasonable”

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The Mariners, Mets, and Orioles have all been linked to free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz over the past couple of weeks, but March is approaching and the 33-year-old remains unsigned. Could a return to the Rangers become an option if this saga continues?

According to Lyle Spencer of MLB.com, the Texas front office has maintained regular contact with Cruz and his agent Adam Katz and could bring him back in 2014 if the asking price becomes “reasonable.”

“We’ve touched base every week or so,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told MLB.com on Wednesday in Surprise, Arizona. “Nellie’s highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves [for Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo] and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we’ll see where it goes. It’s a unique situation for him as a free agent. … When we made our decision to sign Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz’s] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don’t know what’s going on with other teams and Nellie. … If that came to pass, we would talk about it.”

Cruz batted .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI in 109 games last season for Texas before getting suspended in August for purchasing PEDs from the Biogenesis clinic. He declined a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers in November, tying his free agency to draft pick compensation.

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.