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Dodgers, Will Smith “Working On” Long-Term Extension

Dodgers, Will Smith "Working On" Long-Term Extension

The Dodgers announced today that they have signed catcher Will Smith to a ten-year extension which runs through 2033. It is reportedly a guarantee of $140MM with no opt-outs for the Apex Baseball client, though with deferrals. Smith will get a $30MM signing bonus, a salary of $13.55MM in 2024, salaries of $13MM from 2025 to 2027, $9.5MM from 2028 to 2032 and $9.95MM in 2033. The deferrals will be paid out at a rate of $5MM annually from 2034 to 2043 and the deal will have a competitive balance tax hit of $12.2MM. Because this deal overwrites Smith’s previous $8.55MM salary for the 2024 season, the pact is effectively a nine-year, $131.45MM deal in terms of new money.

It’s an early birthday present for Smith, who turns 29 tomorrow and has somewhat quietly been one of the best catchers in the game in recent years. Dating back to his 2019 debut through the end of 2023, he hit 91 home runs and drew walks in 10.9% of his plate appearances. His .261/.357/.483 batting line coming into the 2024 season translates to a 128 wRC+. Among qualified catchers over that span, only Mitch Garver and Adley Rutschman had a higher wRC+. Each of those two were at 130 but in barely half as many plate appearances.

His glovework has also received strong grades, including 26 Defensive Runs Saved thus far in his career. Statcast considers him to have been roughly league average in terms of blocking and controlling the running game. It’s less enthused about his framing but FanGraphs considers him to be right around par in that department, while Baseball Prospectus considers him to be well above average. His 15.8 wins above replacement from FanGraphs since the start of 2019 are second among primary catchers, behind only J.T. Realmuto.

Smith was going into his second of three arbitration seasons. He made $5.25MM last year and avoided arbitration back in January by agreeing to a salary of $8.55MM for 2024, though that salary has now been overwritten by the aforementioned $13.55MM figure. He would have been eligible for another pass at arbitration in 2025 before qualifying for free agency after his age-30 season, but the Dodgers have locked him up instead.

The structure of the contract stands out as unusual, as a ten-year deal for a catcher is unprecedented. Per MLBTR’s Contract Tracker, which has data going back to the 2009-10 offseason, no backstop has ever signed a deal longer than eight years. Each of Joe Mauer, Buster Posey and Keibert Ruiz signed eight-year extensions,…

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