Although they could use another solid outfielder, the KC Royals didn’t miss on David Dahl.
Friday’s news that free agent David Dahl appears set to join former KC Royals pitcher Chris Young‘s Texas Rangers surely disappointed some of the Kansas City faithful. Now led by Young, who became their general manager last week, the Rangers reportedly agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the talented young outfielder.
From the moment Colorado non-tendered Dahl, speculation permeated the Internet and airwaves that the Royals would be among his suitors, notwithstanding their abundance of talented young outfielders and the recent addition of Michael A. Taylor to the club. At least some hope he’d choose Kansas City was justified–Alex Gordon’s retirement opened a gaping defensive hole in left field and the current crop of outfielders is, excepting Taylor and Whit Merrifield, thin on big league experience.
Whether the KC Royals checked in on Dahl isn’t known. But, despite the ability to hit for power, decent defense and four-year .286/.334/.494 slash that made him a hot commodity as soon as he hit the market, and the relatively inexpensive amount it apparently took to land him, Dahl going to Texas shouldn’t be considered a Royal miss.
Some players just come with a bit too much uncertainty, and David Dahl happens to be one of them.
It’s not the miserable 2020 he had with the Rockies—a .183 average, .222 OBP and no home runs in 24 games—that’s the problem. Plenty of high-caliber players struggled in 2020 and some, like Dahl, suffered almost unimaginable south of Mendoza-type campaigns; 60 games didn’t provide many with enough time to dig out from horrid slumps, and excellent players slumping for 24 games, like Dahl did, isn’t uncommon.
What clouds Dahl is a stunning history of injuries that rivals those of Kansas City’s Kyle Zimmer and Bubba Starling in severity and frequency.
Major injury first hit Dahl, a first-round draft pick of the Rockies in 2012 who scorched Rookie ball pitchers that year for a .379 average and nine homers, 22 doubles and 10 triples in 67 games, when a hamstring issue sidelined him for most of his sophomore pro season. The injury limited him to 10 games.
Two seasons later, an on-field collision left Dahl with a lacerated spleen and related surgery.
He broke into the majors in 2016 and, injury free, slashed .315/.359/.500 in 63 games.
Dahl fracture a rib in 2017 spring training, then came back and played 19 games before back spasms ended his season in July. He didn’t play in the big leagues at all.
He fractured a foot in June 2018, but still played 77 games for the Rockies and hit 16 homers.
Dahl’s 2019 season ended with a month left when he suffered a high ankle sprain. He’d made the All-Star team, though, and hit 15 homers and slashed .302/.353/.524.
And his 2020 woes are also traceable to injuries—back issues surfaced in August, he came back to play for a couple of weeks, then sat out the final week of the campaign with a shoulder issue that led to offseason surgery.
Precisely how much those his many injuries have cost Dahl in performance and statistics is impossible to measure, but he hasn’t played more than 100 games in any of his three major league seasons preceding 2020.
Some will contend Dahl’s excellent short career numbers still would have fit the KC Royals well. That he’s performed despite injury is true: he has some power and a knack for getting on base, two things Kansas City needs. His experience in left field—he’s played there more than anywhere else—probably would have made him the favorite for Gordon’s old job and, although he doesn’t have Gordon’s glove, Dahl would have been an offensive upgrade.
But a player has to play, and a team must be able to count on him to do just that day in and day out. Dahl’s injuries aren’t his fault, but they’ve robbed him of much time on the field and seem to never end.
It’s the injuries and their frequency that render Dahl a significant risk. The ideal Kansas City left fielder will hit, hit for power and average, get on base, and field the position well, all of which he can do. Would it have been nice to secure the services of Dahl, who won’t be a free agent until after the 2023 season, for up to three years? Yes, but his injury propensity stands in the way.
At day’s end, the KC Royals really didn’t miss on Dahl. He was a risk not entirely worth taking. There are at least a couple of other suitable outfielders on the market and, with Taylor presumably set in center and Merrifield in right, Kansas City can give Franchy Cordero, Edward Olivares, Nick Heath, Khalil Lee, and maybe even Seuly Matias, who survived last week’s Rule 5 draft, shots at left.
David Dahl is a good outfielder. Bu the Royals need to settle on someone less injury-prone to play left field.