Try to imagine being David Dahl in early December.
You’re recovering from a shoulder injury that required surgery and played a role in a dismal offensive season when things were already screwy enough.
But you were an All-Star in 2019, and an affordable one at that while financially under club control.
Oh, and you’re about to be a dad for the first time.
Then, your phone rings, and the person on the other end informs you that your team, the Colorado Rockies, will not tender you a 2021 contract.
You’d be pretty ticked, right?
Dahl was and probably still is somewhere in what outwardly seems to be a good soul.
He wasn’t a free agent for very long. The Texas Rangers swooped him up, and he is positioned to be their primary left fielder in 2021.
He needs to have a good spring, and he is very motivated to do so courtesy of another questionable decision by the Rockies.
“It was definitely a surprise, but at the end of the day I’m excited for this new opportunity,” said Dahl, who was the Rangers’ starting designated hitter Monday against the San Francisco Giants. “I think any time a team kind of gives up on you like, that adds a little more motivation and more fuel to the fire.”
Dahl followed that by saying he doesn’t have any hard feelings. He’s still buddies with his old teammates, especially former Irving resident Trevor Story and new St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Where it looked six months ago as if Dahl would be planting long-term roots on a team with a veteran core, he comes to a young Rangers team that his rebuilding. At nearly 27, he’s a veteran.
Yet, he feels as if he has something to prove based on his 2020 stats (.183 average, no homers in 24 games), the shoulder surgery and getting kicked to the Coors Field curb.
“There’s not a guy on the roster that doesn’t have something to prove,” manager Chris Woodward said. “Last year was a weird year for a lot of reasons, but in 2020 he didn’t perform as well as you’d like. He’s kind of a renewed spirit and he’s ready to prove to the world that he is the player that he was at the beginning.”
A left-handed batter, Dahl posted a .297/.346/.521 slashline in parts of four seasons for the Rockies. His best season came in 2019, when he batted .302, including .319 against lefties, and posted a .877 OPS in 100 games before being sidelined by a sprained right ankle.
He has had only one season since 2015, when he suffered a lacerated spleen, in which he wasn’t slowed by injury.
The Rangers are also high on Dahl’s defense and believe that they can have a premier defensive outfield with Leody Taveras in center field and Gold Glove winner Joey Gallo in right.
The Dahl addition on a one-year, $2.7 million contract likely pushes Willie Calhoun to designated hitter, where he will share at-bats with Khris Davis. Calhoun will play left field on off days for Dahl or if he shifts to center field to give Taveras time off.
Dahl is putting the final touches on his rehab from shoulder surgery and isn’t expected to play the outfield in a Cactus League game until mid-March.
“I think right field’s pretty locked down, so I don’t think I’ll have to worry about being there at all,” Dahl said. “We have a good center fielder. I’ve seen the way he works and how good he is defensively out there. I’m very comfortable in left. I’m comfortable in center. So, wherever they need me I’ll play.”
The Rangers face the Rockies twice again this season, including June 1-3 in Denver.
There might be some hard feelings after all.
“He, obviously, values himself as a player pretty highly and felt like he had done some really good things for the years he was in Colorado,” Woodward said. “I think there is a little chip on his shoulder, for sure, and it was a positive driving force behind his work this offseason and as he moves forward with us.”