'There's no better organization.' Dodgers and Will Smith celebrate contract extension

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 26: Dodgers Will Smith trots around the bases after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning at Angels Stadium Tuesday. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Andrew Friedman acknowledged it himself Wednesday.

There have been times in the past, the Dodgers president of baseball operations said, where the team’s talks with players on long-term extensions didn't come to fruition. Where stop-and-start discussions never resulted in a deal.

“We’ve had other failed negotiations,” Friedman said, “that separated or fizzled out in a way that’s hard to put back together.”

With catcher Will Smith, things played out differently.

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After a couple of offseasons of reported talks between the Dodgers and their former first-round pick, the sides struck a 10-year, $140-million contract extension on Wednesday that will keep Smith with the club through the 2033 season.

“I don’t think I would be the player I am without being here,” Smith said during a news conference at Dodger Stadium, sitting with Friedman and general manager Brandon Gomes to either side. “For me to probably finish my career as a Dodger means a lot. I couldn’t be happier and more excited moving forward.”

In what’s been a week of uncertainty and speculation for the Dodgers, stemming from gambling and theft allegations that Shohei Ohtani has leveled against his ex-interpreter, Wednesday’s news came as a satisfying reprieve to the club’s front office, which locked up the latest important piece of its star-studded core.

Already this offseason, the team had agreed to long-term contracts with Ohtani (10 years), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (12 years) and Tyler Glasnow (five years). Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman are also signed through 2032 and 2027, respectively.

Adding Smith to that group will provide some clarity to the team’s plans behind the plate.

Before Wednesday, Smith was only under team control through the end of next year.

The Padres' Tyler Wade scores as Dodgers catcher Will Smith makes a late tag on March 21 in Seoul

Had he reached free agency, where his productive offensive track record would have set him apart from others at a premium defensive position, it’s possible a bidding war for his services would have surpassed anything the Dodgers were comfortable paying — similar to what happened with homegrown shortstop Corey Seager after contract talks between him and the team went nowhere.

Instead, on the eve of the team’s regular-season home opener, Smith found himself in a room full of not only reporters, but also his wife, Cara, his 1-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and his agents at Apex Baseball; all there to celebrate his decade-long commitment to the only MLB franchise he has known.

“There’s no better organization that’s more committed to winning a World Series,” Smith said. “That’s most important to me when it comes to baseball. I’m looking forward to these next 10 years.”

Smith, 28, emerged over the last several seasons as perhaps the Dodgers' best homegrown position player since Seager, who now plays for Texas.

A first-round pick in 2016 out of the University of Louisville, Smith quickly ascended to the Dodgers starting catcher role upon making his MLB debut six years ago. He played an integral part on their 2020 World Series team (despite splitting time defensively with Austin Barnes that postseason). He has developed into one of the best offensive catchers in the game, as well, culminating with a first All-Star selection last season.

His career .263 batting average, 91 home runs, 308 RBIs and .842 on-base-plus-slugging percentage have helped him rack up almost 15 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. So too have the defensive strides he has made as the Dodgers’ everyday backstop, with the team raving about his improvements as a game-caller, running-game-stopper and all-around reliable presence behind the plate.

This year, Smith is also the team’s cleanup hitter behind a trio of former MVPs in Betts, Ohtani and Freeman.

Read more: How the Dodgers' Will Smith became one of baseball's best catchers

It’s a role he might now hold down for years to come.

“It’s a really special, organizational moment,” Friedman said. “From the [draft] selection and amateur process through the player development system and to the major-league level … Will has been integral and a significant part of a lot of success we have achieved to this point. We’re excited about him being a huge part of what we do into the future.”

Smith’s contract has no opt-outs, but does include a $30 million signing bonus to be paid out over the next two years, according to a person with knowledge of the deal unauthorized to speak publicly.

The deal also includes $50 million of deferred money to be paid out after its completion, another person with knowledge of the situation said. The deferrals — a staple of other Dodgers contracts with Betts, Freeman and Ohtani most of all — will lower the deal’s annual luxury tax hit to around $12.2 million, according to, a slight savings from the $14 million per year it would have accounted for otherwise.

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Despite having now dished out nearly $1.4 billion in guaranteed money since the end of last season, Friedman and Gomes have maintained the spending spree is nothing more than the result of circumstance; that they didn’t set out to lock up a superstar core of players to long-term deals this offseason.

Instead, they’ve argued, each big investment has fit in with their long-term aim of competing for World Series in not only the short-term, but the distant future as well.

Few players symbolize that big-picture commitment as much as Smith.

And with Wednesday’s news, he can now be counted among the cornerstone talents they plan to build around.

“This,” Friedman said with a quick glance to Smith, “has been something that has been near the top of our to-do list for a long time.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.