With the 2021 season coming to a close, we are going to look back at the year that was for members of the Texas Rangers. The season isn’t over yet, of course, but there are a number of players who are on the injured list or otherwise won’t be playing the rest of the way, so we can start by looking at those guys whose seasons are done, and once the season is over we can include guys who are still in action.
Today we are looking at outfielder David Dahl.
Man...David Dahl. In the 2020-21 offseason, when there were few exciting moves by the Texas Rangers and we were preparing for a season of full-on rebuild, the transaction that generated the most enthusiasm was probably the signing of David Dahl. Dahl at the time was a 26 year old former top prospect who was non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies — a move that came as a great surprise — and who had struggled to stay healthy, but was seen as having significant upside if he could stay on the field. In addition, with three years of team control remaining, he would not be a stop-gap player, but instead was someone who, if he worked out, the Rangers would be able to keep through 2023, if they wished.
It was the type of move a rebuilding team wants to make — a low cost, low risk deal with high upside. If Dahl didn’t work out, if he couldn’t stay healthy, well, its a one year deal. If he fulfilled his potential, however, you have three years of a quality outfielder at low cost.
Dahl ended up signing a one year deal with the Rangers for $2.7 million. That was surprisingly low — almost as surprising, in fact, as the Rockies’ decision to non-tender him. It was a happy development for Rangers fans. That said, it also was a red flag of sorts...we are at a point where player valuation is largely commodified among MLB teams. If that was the market for Dahl, it suggests that the rest of MLB had the same concerns about Dahl’s ability to perform that the Rockies did, and thus the offers he was getting were along the lines of backup money, not starting outfielder money.
Nonetheless, as discussed above, it was a low risk move, the type of move a rebuilding team wants to make. Dahl came to spring training as the starting left fielder, and was manning that spot on Opening Day.
Things started off well for Dahl — he went 5 for 9 with a walk in his first two games. Then things went poorly after that. He went 2 for his next 20, missed a game, and then DH’d for the next four games due to some issue or another that had him physically limited. He resumed playing the outfield soon thereafter, but still didn’t hit, and ended the month of April with a .193/.225/.301 slash line.
May saw Dahl tick up a little offensively, though he missed two games in a row in the mid part of the month, and he was slashing .230/.266/.393 for the month when he left mid-game on May 25, having what was diagnosed as a “rib cage contusion” after having crashed into the fence earlier in the game. It resulted in a trip to the injured list.
Dahl headed out on a rehab assignment on June 19, and played three games for Round Rock, after which I think we all assumed that he would be activated — after all, guys rarely spend much more time than that on a rehab assignment, particularly when they’ve missed less than a month. Dahl wasn’t activated, however...instead, he was transferred to Frisco, and appeared in six games with them, for reasons that were not particularly clear at the time.
After 12 days out on a rehab assignment, Dahl was finally activated on July 1, though didn’t immediately return to the lineup, instead making his debut as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning of an 8-3 win against Oakland. Dahl continued to start throughout the month of July, and continued not to hit, slashing .224/.270/.293 for the month.
As July went on, Dahl’s short-term future with the team was looking more and more in doubt. After a 14-0 shellacking in Detroit, Chris Woodward said after the game that there were players not putting in the work or the effort necessary, and there seemed to be a suspicion that Dahl may have been one of those he was referring to. After the trade of Joey Gallo on July 30 — a move that took a starting outfielder off of the roster, and thus would seem to have made it more likely Dahl stuck around — Woodward called out Dahl, saying he “hasn’t been as good as I would have liked,” and that Dahl hadn’t earned a regular spot in the lineup, even after Gallo’s departure.
Dahl went 0 for 4 on July 30, after Woodward’s remarks. He sat the next day, went 0 for 3 on August 1, and was designated for assignment the next day. Dahl was put on waivers, went unclaimed, and was released. He signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee, was assigned to AAA Nashville, and slashed .327/.375/.536 there. The Brewers are in the playoffs, so its possible that Dahl could be added to the playoff roster at some point later on due to injuries or whathaveyou, but it appears his season is done.
Dahl ended his time with the Rangers with a .210/.247/.322 slash line and a -1.0 bWAR. Signing him was a worthwhile experiment. It was also a failure, in a season full of them.