Dahl, who has dealt with frequent injuries but also was an All-Star in 2019, was potentially the most expensive player of the three the Rockies non-tendered. Various projections had Dahl set to earn $2.55 million to $2.6 million next season had he stayed in the arbitration process.
Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort said in a recent letter to season-ticket holders that “there will be nothing normal about this offseason as the industry faces a new economic reality.” Not offering a 2021 contract to the 26-year-old Dahl -- dynamic and productive when healthy -- fits Monfort’s motif.
“Sometimes it's tough to move on [from] guys and say goodbye to guys, but there's times when you have to, for business reasons,” Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. “There were a combination of those sorts of business reasons at play here for these decisions, based on what’s going on in the industry. I won’t say it’s business as usual.”
Dahl avoided arbitration last winter in his first year of eligibility by signing a one-year, $2.475 million deal. A right shoulder injury bothered him throughout the truncated 2020 season, and he finished with a .183 batting average in just 24 games.
Dahl underwent a cleanup surgery after the season. He said rehab is going well and he will be ready for Spring Training.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity the Rockies gave me by drafting me and letting me live out a dream of being a big leaguer,” Dahl said. “I’m going to miss my teammates and the fans. Sorry it didn’t work out in Denver, but I’m excited for a new opportunity, wherever that is.”
Dahl, the 10th overall MLB Draft pick in 2012, flashed his potential when he debuted in 2016 and batted .315 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in his first 63 Major League games. However, a stress reaction in his rib cage cost him the 2017 season.
Dahl established himself as a force in the lineup late in 2018. He missed 54 games that season with a fractured right foot but finished strong -- nine home runs and 27 RBIs during a hot September that keyed the Rockies’ surge to the postseason.
In 2019, Dahl overcame a slow start to earn his first All-Star Game appearance. After 100 games of solid hitting (.302/.353/.524 slash line, 15 homers, 61 RBIs), his season ended because of a right ankle sprain.
Hoping to take advantage of Dahl’s power and speed, the Rockies moved him to the leadoff spot this year and dropped Charlie Blackmon to the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. After Dahl’s injury, Raimel Tapia took over at leadoff and put up solid numbers: .321/.369/.402. Tapia, in his first year of arbitration, was one of the players the Rockies tendered on Wednesday.
Center field becomes a question if the Rockies do not re-sign Dahl. At the 2020 Trade Deadline, the Rockies acquired Kevin Pillar from the Red Sox and received solid work (.308/.351/.451 in 24 games), but Pillar is a free agent and Bridich chose to focus filling the outfield with in-house options. At the top of the payroll are Blackmon, who could toggle between designated hitter and right field, and Ian Desmond, due $10 million next year after choosing not to play in '20. In center could be Tapia, who played left last season; Sam Hilliard, a rookie in '20; and Garrett Hampson, a multiple-position player.
“There's a good number of outfielders that we currently have on our roster, some of whom we would like to get some more playing time,” Bridich said. “There's financial decisions. And then there's a health part of it, too, which has been a struggle for David at times with us.
“So this might be a new opportunity, or will be an opportunity for him to find out, hopefully, a great opportunity somewhere else.”
Bridich said he called Gray to assure him he was in the Rockies’ plans. Gray struggled through eight starts (2-4, 6.69 ERA) before ending his season early with right shoulder inflammation. Whether for the 2021 season or for potential trade pieces, the Rockies decided to hang onto their established starters.
González, a candidate to be re-signed for rotation depth, has gone 2-8 with a 5.66 ERA in 20 games (16 starts) for the Rockies over the past two seasons.
Tendering Elias Díaz was a factor in non-tendering Wolters, the team’s main catcher the past two seasons. Since joining the Rockies in 2016, Wolters has batted .238 with a .323 on-base percentage. He received high marks for handling pitchers and throwing. But at the end of 2020, Díaz was receiving most of the playing time.