Dodgers, catcher Will Smith agree to 10-year, $140M extension

ByJeff Passan ESPN logo
Thursday, March 28, 2024

Catcher Will Smith and the Dodgerssigned a 10-year, $140 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday,the latest deal in an offseason of massive spending by a Los Angeles team that is locking up its core members.

Smith, who turns 29 on Friday, was due to hit free agency following the 2025 season. Los Angeles prevented that by giving him a deal that will run through the 2033 season and keep him in the middle of one of baseball's most dangerous lineups.

The $140 million is the third-highest guarantee ever for a catcher, behind Joe Mauer's eight-year, $184 million contract with Minnesota and Buster Posey's nine-year, $167 million deal with San Francisco. The deal, negotiated by Apex Baseball, includes a $30 million signing bonus -- to be paid in two installments by January 2025 -- and around 30% of the remaining salary deferred, sources said.

After debuting in 2019, Smith almost immediately established himself as one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball. With an elite eye and 20-plus-home run power, Smith spent most of last season hitting third for Los Angeles and made his first All-Star team.

The addition of Shohei Ohtani this winter pushed Smith down to the cleanup spot, behind the three past MVPs at the top of the Dodgers' lineup: Mookie Betts, Ohtani and Freddie Freeman.

Smith's extension follows the 10-year, $700 million deal signed by Ohtani this winter, as well as Yoshinobu Yamamoto's 12-year, $325 million contract, Tyler Glasnow's five-year, $137.5 million extension and a one-year, $23.5 million pact for outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.

Altogether, the Dodgers have committed more than $1.35 billion in future salaries this winter.

By stretching Smith's deal to 10 years, the Dodgers will receive significant luxury tax benefits. The contract will count for around $12.2 million a year against their competitive balance tax payroll. The deal pushes their CBT payroll this season to nearly $325 million, as Smith was set to make $8.55 million -- a record for a second-time arbitration-eligible catcher -- after settling with Los Angeles.

Because Smith was due to hit free agency entering his age-31 season, a decade-long deal gives him more security than catchers typically receive. Smith also could eventually transition to another position, having played at third base and second base in the Dodgers' minor league system.

With arguably the best catching depth in baseball -- at some point, Diego Cartaya, Dalton Rushing and Thayron Liranzo all have appeared on Top 100 prospect lists, and 26-year-old Hunter Feduccia is expected to debut in Los Angeles this season -- the Dodgers could have opted to let Smith reach free agency. But the deal's length and resulting CBT discount made it a mutually beneficial proposition.

Smith, a first-round draft pick in 2016, earned it with his bat. Over his first five seasons with the Dodgers, he hit .261/.357/.483 with 91 home runs and 306 RBIs. His 18.3% strikeout rate over that time places him near the top quarter of players in MLB, and his walk rate of 10.9% is in the 82nd percentile.

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