Could David Dahl be the left-handed bat the Mariners are reportedly chasing this off-season? Well, there is a pretty good case for it.
David Dahl is a super talented outfielder, formerly of the Colorado Rockies. He has plus power, above-average speed, and has been a solid average or better defender for most of his career. And entering the 2020 season, he was viewed by many as a staple of the Rockies’ future going forward. But Dahl was not immune to the suckiness of 2020. He struggled through a shoulder injury in the abbreviated 2020 season and it was apparent that his play was greatly impacted.
You see, entering 2020, Dahl (who has had a long run of injuries) was a career .297/.346/.521 hitter in 921 PA’s and averaged 26 home runs and 10 stolen bases per 162 games played. But in 2020, Dahl hit .183/.222/.247 before he finally had his surgery, mercilessly ending his 2020 season.
But Dahl should be healthy and ready to go by Spring Training and he doesn’t turn 27-years-old until opening day 2021. He is a left-handed bat, something the Mariners are rumored to be shopping for, and he can play all three outfield spots quite well. The shoulder injury did impact his defense in 2020, but in 2019, Dahl was at least Mitch Haniger like with his glove.
Dahl is an aggressive hitter who chases too many pitches out of the zone and doesn’t draw nearly the walks he should. He’ll need to refine some things at the plate, but despite these obvious warts, he’s still produced every time he’s been healthy. Ideally, Dahl is the everyday option until Jarred Kelenic is called up. But even after Kelenic arrives, Dahl’s ability to play all 3 outfield spots set up a useful rotation, and securing Dahl 400+ PAs between the outfield and DH shouldn’t be a problem.
Coming from Colorado is always going to have fans screaming “Coors effect” but the simple truth is, hitting at Coors field isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be. However, there is a noticeable difference in Dahl away from Coors (as there is with most hitters home vs away) so the team is going to have to decide what they believe those numbers mean. On the plus side, Dahl is not useless against LHP so you don’t need to use him as a straight platoon player.
The beauty of Dahl is that he isn’t an unrestricted free agent until after the 2023 season and he’s young enough to play himself into the long-term plans of the Mariners. Dahl is sure to have plenty of interested parties as both contending clubs and rebuilding clubs can find roles for his skill set. But Seattle can give Dahl enough playing time to establish himself without the immediate pressure to perform right away.
If the Mariners wanted to sweeten the pot some, they may work out, say a two-year deal with Dahl and promise not to tender him a contract in 2023, allowing him to become a free agent a year earlier than he may have been.
Dahl could very well play himself into a future with the Mariners if he can stay healthy. But Dahl is exactly the type of young talent a team like the Mariners should bet on. He’s unlikely to make much more than $12 million over his final 3-years of club control and the upside of an everyday outfielder with plus power is hard to ignore.