Dodgers C Will Smith agrees to 10-year, $140 million extension

The Los Angeles Dodgers plan to have Will Smith behind the plate for a very long time.

The team announced Wednesday that it signed Smith to a 10-year, $140 million contract extension. Smith is set to be tied to the Dodgers through his age-38 season.

The deal is the third-largest ever for a catcher by total value, behind only Joe Mauer's eight-year, $184 million contract with the Minnesota Twins and Buster Posey's nine-year, $167 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. It has a relatively low $14 million average annual value, though, which figures to help the team keep its competitive balance tax bill down over the next few years.

Smith was previously set to hit free agency after the 2025 season. He avoided arbitration with the Dodgers for this season with a one-year, $8.55 million deal, but that contract will now be replaced by the extension.

Per's Mark Feinsand, the deal contains $50 million in deferred money, a less-extreme version of what the team did with Shohei Ohtani's $700 million deal last winter. Smith will receive between $9.5 million and $13.55 million each season through 2033, then $5 million per year between 2034 and 2043. The deal also reportedly contains a $30 million signing bonus.

As SB Nation's Eric Stephen laid out, Smith's money is analogous to what he would've received via arbitration the next two seasons followed by J.T. Realmuto's five-year, $115.5 million deal, a combination that bears out to roughly seven years and $136.5 million. The Dodgers just added another three years for little money down.

Will Smith is quietly a star for the Dodgers

The Dodgers are well known for employing the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Clayton Kershaw, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Walker Buehler and many, many more. Smith, however, has been as valuable to them as anyone the past few years.

Over the previous five seasons, Smith has developed into one of the best all-around catchers in baseball and a vital part of the Dodgers' core. He's a career .263/.358/.484 hitter, elite numbers for a catcher, and is considered by Statcast to have a strong pop time and blocking behind the plate. His one hang-up is he grades out as a mediocre-to-average framer.

The length of this deal, as well as the catching talent the Dodgers have in their minor-league system, indicates that the team believes Smith's bat will remain valuable long after he stops serving as the starting catcher. His career low in OPS+ was last year at 114, which means he has never posted an offensive season worse than 14% above the average MLB player.

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 26: Will Smith #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs to first base after hitting a home run in the third inning of an exhibition game against the  Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on March 26, 2024 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
Will Smith can start looking for a Bel Air mansion. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) (Katharine Lotze via Getty Images)

Even if Smith fields elsewhere in the later years of this contract, he could be valuable. That's a distinct possibility, considering that the Dodgers have one of the best collections of catching prospects in baseball.

MLB Pipeline ranks Dalton Rushing as the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, the No. 6 catching prospect and the No. 75 overall prospect in baseball. Behind him are the Dodgers' No. 9 prospect, Diego Cartaya, the once heir apparent at the position who slid down the rankings with a rough 2023, and No. 10 prospect Thayron Liranzo.

Any of those guys hitting big would probably cause Smith to see less time at catcher than he currently does with Austin Barnes backing him up, though trades are always possible to free up a logjam.