Will Smith, Dodgers agree to 10-year extension

March 27th, 2024

LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers have a core in place, one they believe will lead them to multiple championships over the next decade. On Wednesday, they made sure star catcher plays an integral part in that pursuit.

Smith and the Dodgers agreed to a 10-year, $140 million extension, keeping the star catcher in Los Angeles for most -- if not all -- of his career.

The deal includes a $30 million signing bonus (Smith will receive $15 million of the signing bonus in November 2024, and the other $15 million in January 2025), and the pact will also include a portion of deferred compensation -- $5 million per season -- which will be paid out annually between 2034-43, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

With the deal, Smith will become the fourth Dodger to be signed through at least 2032 after Mookie Betts’ 12-year extension, Shohei Ohtani’s historic 10-year deal and Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s record 12-year guarantee that made him the highest-paid pitcher in the Majors. Other key pieces of the Dodgers’ core are Freddie Freeman and Tyler Glasnow, who are locked up for the next four and five years, respectively. The 10-year pact is the longest ever given to a catcher.

“I’ve loved being here since I got drafted in 2016,” Smith said Wednesday. “I don’t think I would be the player I am without being here. So for me to probably finish my career a Dodger means a lot. I couldn’t be happier and more excited moving forward. There’s no better organization that’s more committed to winning a World Series and that’s most important to me when it comes to baseball. I’m looking forward to these next 10 years.”

Over the last few seasons, Smith has established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. Before 2023, the Dodgers felt comfortable watching shortstop Trea Turner depart from the middle of their lineup because of their confidence in Smith’s ability to hit behind the other stars in the lineup.

This season, the Dodgers are expecting Smith, who became an All-Star for the first time last season, to take an even bigger leap, as he’ll serve as the biggest protection to the MVP trio of Betts, Ohtani and Freeman atop the batting order.

“It is something that has been on top of our to-do list, was to figure out how to keep Will and [his wife] Cara in the Dodgers family for as far as we can see out,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “Throughout conversations they have maintained their strong desire to be here and we have reiterated that back. So for it to culminate with this extension today is extremely exciting for all of us.”

Smith and the Dodgers had engaged in contract extension talks each of the last few seasons, but the two sides never came to an agreement. This spring, however, the two sides re-engaged with hopes of coming to a long-term deal. It wasn’t until the club’s recent trip to Seoul, South Korea, that talks began heating up, however.

The Dodgers maintained their stance of wanting to secure a 10-year pact with Smith. After a couple of days of exchanging figures, the two sides grew comfortable with the terms of the agreement.

“Thinking back as a kid and watching Derek Jeter and those guys that played their whole career [with one team], you always dreamed of that as a kid,” Smith said. “I don’t think I really spent too much time the last couple years thinking about it specifically. But as we had these ongoing talks, you start to think about that. For me, it was a decision I had to make. It was a pretty easy decision to make because I wanted to be here.”

Before the extension, Smith was set to become a free agent ahead of the 2026 season. The former first-round pick out of Louisville avoided arbitration entering this season by agreeing to an $8.55 million deal that was the highest amount for a catcher in his second year of arbitration. Now, Smith will become one of the top-paid catchers in the sport, making more annually than every backstop outside of J.T. Realmuto, Salvador Perez and Willson Contreras. Smith's extension will count for roughly $12.2 million annually toward the Dodgers' CBT payroll, a source told Feinsand, thanks to the $50 million in deferred salary in the deal.

Since making his debut in 2019, Smith owns a career .263/.358/.484 slash line, having hit 68 home runs from 2021-23, including a career-high 25 in 2021 and 21 in 2022. The Dodgers are still expecting the best is yet to come from their franchise career.

“One of the things I think we appreciate most about Will is that he is not a guy that ever wants the spotlight and yet when the lights are the brightest, he really comes to life,” said Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes. “As Andrew said, we couldn’t be more excited to have Will and Cara here for a very, very long time.”