Dodgers Lock Up Catcher Will Smith to Decade-Long Extension

The Dodgers have been flexing their financial muscles all year. Now, they're signing star catcher Will Smith to a 10-year extension.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 23: Will Smith #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his walk-off two run homerun, for a 5-3 win over the Colorado Rockies, during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium on June 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

All throughout the 2023-2024 offseason, Major League Baseball’s biggest theme was the Los Angeles Dodgers flexing their financial muscles. Shohei Ohtani, Teoscar Hernandez, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, James Paxton and Tyler Glasnow (trade/extension) are the top examples of players the club went out and bought this past winter.

Now, on the eve of 2024 Opening Day, the club is at it once again. Per multiple reports, including ones from Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic (who also reports deferrals will be involved) and ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Dodgers are signing catcher Will Smith to a whopping 10-year, $140M contract extension.

This is a massive win for the Dodgers. Signing one of the game’s most promising catchers to a deal with just $14M AAV is an incredible job done by the organization’s front office. The low AAV will help the Dodgers keep its CBT (Competitive Balance Tax) down in the immediate future.

Smith’s deal is now the third-largest ever handed out to a catcher. His contract trails only Buster Posey’s nine-year deal and Joe Mauer’s eight-year one.

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Prior to his extension, Smith was scheduled to hit free agency at the conclusion of the 2025 campaign. Now, he becomes the fourth Dodgers player to be signed through the 2032 season, joining Mookie Betts, Ohtani and Yamamoto.

Dodgers Lock Up Their Man

In Smith, the Dodgers are opting for long-term stability behind the plate. This is something that very few teams have in today’s game. Only Adley Rutschman of the Orioles provides the same level of security behind the dish that Smith does.

Smith, 29 tomorrow, is coming off of a season in which he hit 19 home runs and drove in 76 across 126 games. He landed a spot in the All-Star Game for the first time in his young career and finished the season with an above-average OPS+ for the fifth straight year, dating back to his debut in 2019.

Entering the year, Smith projects to be the club’s everyday cleanup hitter. He spent the majority of last year in the three-hole, but that spot is likely to be occupied by Freddie Freeman.

Despite the fact that he scuffled a bit in the second half of last year, there are very few things Smith doesn’t excel at on the field. He hits both righties (118 OPS+) and lefties (116 OPS+) at an above-average clip, he rarely swings and misses and he plays solid defense.

Long-Term Implications For Roster Hopefuls

In Smith, the Dodgers have locked up one of the best catchers in the game. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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One underrated storyline that’s worth talking about is how this affects some of the organization’s top prospects.

Dalton Rushing, the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect per, is the only catching prospect to earn a spot in Just Baseball’s Top 100 ranking. However, he’s not the only up-and-coming backstop who’s suddenly got a foggier future in the organization.

Rushing, 23, has astounding skills with the bat. Last year, he hit 15 home runs in 89 games, posting an .856 OPS, flashing high exit velocities and drawing walks at an impressive rate. He is still a work in progress at catcher, but it’s suddenly looking like he may get that shot at becoming a big league catcher in another organization.

There’s also Diego Cartaya, who comes in as the Dodgers’ No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline’s ranking. He completely fell off the face of the earth last year, hitting 19 home runs but posting a batting average below the Mendoza Line and a dreadful .656 OPS in 93 games at the Double-A level.

Cartaya is younger and a bit more raw than Rushing is, but his future is also murky now. Any momentum either of these players had to becoming a big league starting catcher for the Dodgers is now gone.

This makes the two of them a pair of intriguing trade targets, though. As previously stated, finding good catchers is not easy. Rushing in particular is looking like he’s got all the tools of turning into one once he gets the opportunity. Don’t be surprised to see him moved if the Dodgers are able to find a roster hole in need of addressing as the season rolls on.

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Closing Thoughts

Will Smith is one of the top backstops this game has to offer, and the Dodgers made one hell of a move by extending him. He’s now going to be behind the dish for them for the next decade and is sure to add more All-Star appearances and even World Series rings before the deal is up.

Playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers is one of the top honors a player can get, as it nearly guarantees playoff contention year in and year out. Locking down Smith at catcher was the perfect bow tied on to an offseason for the ages for this organization.