In addition to being an All-Star outfielder and 2020 Gold Glove Award winner, Rangers slugger Joey Gallo added another line to his resume this offseason: recruiter.
Gallo, in an interview Thursday night with 105.3 FM (The FAN) that was part of the Rangers Winter Caravan, said he helped lure outfielder David Dahl to Arlington. Dahl signed a one-year, $2.7 million contract with the Rangers last month after being non-tendered by the Rockies.
Gallo and Dahl came through the amateur ranks playing in the same showcases, were teammates on Team USA’s 18-and-under squad in 2011 and were taken in the 2012 MLB Draft -- Dahl at No. 10 overall by the Rockies and Gallo at No. 39 by the Rangers. When Dahl informed Gallo this offseason that he had been designated for assignment, Gallo went to work.
“I said, ‘All right, let me get on this real quick,’” he said.
The slugger spoke to Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and the coaching staff and tried to sell them on Dahl, who hit .183/.222/.247 with no home runs and nine RBIs last year in Colorado while batting back and right shoulder problems. It was only a year prior, in 2019, Dahl was an All-Star after posting an .877 OPS.
“Not many times you get a 26-, 27-year-old who was an All-Star who you’re going to get at a pretty low price who’s going to come to a team, in terms of where he’s at, in a rebuild phase,” Gallo said. “I said, ‘This is a pretty good opportunity.’ I told [Dahl] there are outfield spots open. ‘You’re going to come here and play. You’re not going to worry about getting benched and looking over your shoulder.’”
In addition to trying to woo the Rangers' front office and coaching staff, Gallo sent Dahl videos of brand-new Globe Life Field, with behind-the-scenes looks at the clubhouse and the playing field. Dahl joins center fielder Leody Taveras and right fielder Gallo to give what the Rangers expect to be three strong defensive players in a ballpark that places a premium on outfield defense.
“It’s not tough to get somebody to come to the City of Dallas, to DFW,” Gallo said. “It’s a pretty easy pitch. He was excited that we’re going to be playing together again.”
That is, of course, if Gallo remains in Texas. Gallo’s name has come up in trade rumors the last few months for the rebuilding Rangers. Gallo just turned 27, he’s under club control through the 2022 season, and as recently as '19, he was playing at an MVP-caliber level until injuries got in the way.
“When you get drafted somewhere, you always envision yourself being there forever,” Gallo said. “That’s always how I felt with the Rangers. I love being here. I love being a Texas Ranger, win or lose. I feel proud to put ‘Texas’ across my chest every single day I’m out there. But it’s also a business. … As long as I’m here in Texas, I’m going to try to win as many games as I can. Hopefully I don’t [get traded], but it’s a business and we’ll see what happens.”
While he is barely 27 with four years of service time, Gallo has emerged as one of the leaders on a younger Rangers club that had the worst record in the American League last year. He learned leadership skills from players before him, like Adrián Beltré, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, and he is trying to pass along his professionalism to a younger generation of Texas players.
“If you’re going to be on the Texas Rangers, you play the game hard, you respect the game, you respect the fans, you respect the media,” Gallo said. “For me, guys come up here and already have all that going for them. All these young guys play so hard and are so talented. It’s cool because I always envisioned myself as a leader, so now I get to showcase that. It’s almost a test to myself to see how good a leader I can be.”
Performing at an elite level can help validate a player’s leadership role, which is why Gallo has been working hard on improving his swing this offseason. He hit just .181 with 10 homers in 57 games in last year’s shortened season and delved into his offensive metrics, discovering needs to improve his launch angle. Hitting the ball hard is great (Gallo ranked 37th in the Majors last year, among qualifiers, with a 43.9 percent hard-hit percentage) but not as high would be better (he ranked first in launch angle at 26.8 degrees). In 2019, his launch angle was 22.2 degrees.
“One thing we’re working on is trying to get the ball a little bit deeper, level the balls out a little bit more and stop popping up balls [that] I should be driving,” he said. “That’s a huge thing for me -- letting the ball get deeper and using the whole part of the field. That’s going to be huge as long as [defensive] shifts are around.”