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A Case To Extend Will Smith

There are multiple recent articles on whether the Dodgers should extend catcher Will Smith.  He will turn 28 on March 28 with 3.090 years of service, and recently signed a 1 year contract for $5.25MM in his first year eligible for arbitration.  He has two arbitration years remaining, and can become a FA for his age 31 season.

There are two distinct and disparate methods in how certain clubs handle pre-FA extensions. The Dodgers under AF are not very likely to make any long term extensions for pre- FA players.

Max Muncy – 3 year extension for all three arbitration years with a club option.  He was 29 with 3.027 service time years when he signed a 3 year $26MM.

Walker Buehler – 2 year extension for years 1 and 2 of his arbitration eligibility for $8MM.  He was 26 with a 2.168 service time years when he signed the 2 year deal.  He signed a 1 year contract for 2023 and has 1 year of arbitration remaining.

Austin Barnes – 2 year arbitration extension for his last two years of arbitration eligibility.  It was 2 years for $4.3MM.  He was 31 with 4.098 service years.

Austin Barnes – 2 year extension for his first two FA years.  He was 33 with 6.098 service years when he signed a 2 year $7MM deal, with a club option for 2025 for $3.5MM with no buyout.

Tony Gonsolin – 2 year extension for his first two years of arbitration.  He was 29 with 2.152 years of service time when he signed the two year deal for $6.65MM.

The longest contract extension was 3 years to Muncy, and the only extension that bought out FA years was the two years for Austin Barnes. The total guarantee for the five contracts is a massive $51.95MM, and covers a combined 11 years.

Compare the Dodgers foray into pre-FA extensions with those of the Atlanta Braves.



That is seven contracts with a guaranteed commitment of $759MM for a combined 53 years of coverage.  All of the Braves extensions were for players younger than all my Walker Buehler of the Dodgers.  All of the Braves extended will be out of arbitration years, while Walker Buehler has one arbitration year and Tony Gonsolin has two arbitration years remaining.

Julio Urías should be considered for an extension before he actually reaches free agency after 2023.  However, Urías’ agent is Scott Boras, and he always wants his clients to actually go through the free agent process.  On very few occasions, his clients have extended, but Urías will go through the free agent process.  Players retain Scott Boras to get them as much as possible.  Urías figures to be the top free agent pitcher in next year’s class, and will get paid more than handsomely.  At 27, Julio figures to get perhaps a longer term contract than AF will feel comfortable with, but somebody is going to give him 7-10 years.

Walker Buehler should be considered for an extension, but AF is going to wait until he at least pitches competitively before he commits.

Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are potential extension candidates.

However the one LAD player that should be at the top of the extension list is catcher Will Smith.

Atlanta’s Sean Murphy who was extended this past Winter, is the same age as Will Smith and at the same service time as Will.  Murphy has a guaranteed commitment of $73MM for 6 years with an option that will increase the contract amount to $88MM.

Fabian Ardaya and The Athletic comprised a chart of Fangraphs fWAR for the three years prior to an extension or free agent contracts. They used a formula used by The Athletic’s Tim Britton in projecting extension deals.  Will Smith’s fWAR for the last three year’s is 13.2 (with 2020 projected for a full season).  Other 3-year fWAR for catcher’s leading up to their arbitration extensions are as follows:

  • Joe Maurer – 18.1
  • Buster Posey – 15.9
  • Sean Murphy – 12.8

Smith even compares favorably to those catchers with their 3 year’s fWAR leading up to their free agent contract.

  • T. Realmuto – 15.7
  • Russell Martin – 15.4
  • Yasmani Grandal – 14.0
  • Brian McCann – 14.6
  • Yadi Molina (2nd FA) – 16.0 (3 year fWAR leading to arbitration extension was 2.2)

Smith figures to be in a position to get a monster an excellent extension or make a bundle in his next two years of arbitration.  Smith’s contract in his first year of arbitration eligibility was $5.25MM.  That is the 2nd highest 1st year arbitration contract for a catcher.  Only Matt Wieters’ $5.5MM contract exceeded Smith’s.  Sean Murphy’s is $4MM.

The top contract amount for the full three arbitration years are as follows:

  • Sean Murphy – $28MM (includes $9MM and $15MM for the 2nd an 3rd year of his actual contract).
  • Willson Contreras – $20.775
  • Joe Maurer – $20.5MM
  • T. Realmuto – $18.8MM

Even if Smith goes through three years of arbitration, he should exceed those identified above.

Fabian Ardaya has extrapolated all of that information and projected an extension as follows:

Over six years (with an option), that could look something like this: 

  • 2023:$5.25 million
  • 2024:$9.25 million
  • 2025:$15.25 million
  • 2026:$17.25 million
  • 2027:$18.5 million
  • 2028:$18.5 million
  • 2029:$17.25 million club option ($2 million buyout) 

That’s $84 million over those six years with an option to make seven years, $101.25 million. Factoring in the $2 million buyout, that’s $86 million — $13 million more guaranteed than Murphy got in his deal. 

The new money in the deal, factoring in his agreed-upon 2023 salary, is five years, $78.75 million with a club option to make it six years, $96 million. And in his would-be free agency years, he’d make $54.25 million over three years (an AAV of $18.1 million, which is higher than Contreras’ $17.5 million) with a club option to make it four years, $71.5 million, with $56.25 million guaranteed. 

If the option is exercised, that would take Smith through his age 34 season.  Depending on how is body holds up, he could be in line for another FA contract.

I believe what Fabian has projected is fair.  It is not overly aggressive and does not shortchange Smith as many believe Keibert Ruiz was.

IMO, it behooves the Dodgers tie up Smith as Ardaya outlined.  The reason that AF may choose to not look to extend Smith is because of Diego Cartaya and whether he may be ready when Smith would be eligible to hit FA.  For me, Smith is an All Star catcher at 28 (at least he should be), and he is a known asset.  Cartaya has great potential, but that is just what it is…potential until he actually does it.

The Dodgers have multiple other potential catchers that will follow Cartaya.  They are also unknowns.  None of those are expected to start the year above High A (Dalton Rushing).

How do you feel about a Will Smith extension?  What other players would you like for AF to consider?



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I am in total agreement!


Do it!


I thought they should have done it earlier. Smith is one of my favorite players on this team, and he is clutch. They don’t beat Atlanta in 2020 without his homer. D-Backs lost their primary catcher, Carson Kelly to a broken arm.

Fred Vogel

Devil’s Advocate here. While I really like Smith, I don’t think he is worth that kind of money, especially if AF thinks as highly of Cartaya and Rushing as I think he does.


This position is defendable. Cartaya should be ready by the time Smith is a free agent so, really, we have the position covered for the next 8-10 years.

It’s not personal; it’s business.


I like this but I have little hope the organization will reward him with a job. Among he, Grove & Pepiot, he is probably best suited to pitch in a relief role right now.

I like Grove a lot but would be okay if Jackson gets the job and Grove is stretched out in AAA.

Pepiot’s health is a wild card.


I want to watch Smith play and I like to watch young players as they are added to the team. Smith needs to get paid and the Dodgers should pay him. They can always try to trade him if another catcher makes his case.

We don’t know if Smith could play 3rd but we do know that the Dodgers don’t have a stud 3rd baseman pushing his way up. Yes, Vargas might move to third and Betts to second but who is pushing them from their positions?

Awesome game between USA and Japan last night.


Starters better watch their backs because once Stone comes up, he may not be leaving.

Fred Vogel

Brewers ace Corbin Burnes was one of several recent players to speak publicly about the arbitration process, voicing some disappointment last month in some aspects of the team’s approach to the trial. Burnes has now enlisted the Boras Corporation as his new representation moving forward, Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports (via Twitter).

RC Dodger

Excellent article Jeff!
The Braves strategy of extending their young players early seems to set them up very well for the future. I would like to see the Dodgers do more of this, but clients who choose Scott Boras as an agent will not cooperate. Waiting for free agency worked out for Seager, but may not work out so well for Bellinger and others. For Will Smith, he is 28 this week, and under Dodger control until he becomes 31. As a catcher, injuries and declining productivity are more likely than other positions, especially after age 30. I would be willing to give Will Smith an extension like Sean Murphy received, but my guess is that Friedman prefers to stick with arbitration and pay $5 million this year, $10 million next year, and $15 million in 2025, assuming Smith continues to perform. In 2026, if Smith is still a top 5 catcher in MLB, Friedman will pay him then, or transition to Cartaya and Rushing.


Do you guys think Andre Jackson has closer stuff? Or is he more the 2 inning middle relief type that bridges you to the more dominant bullpen arms?

Jeff Dominique

With his strikeout/walk ratio I think he could succeed in the high leverage role., however, IMO, Jackson is more valuable in the multi inning role. That job was supposed to go to Jimmy Nelson, but he is probably headed to the IL to work on his mechanics. LAD does not have another of this type except for Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove. But they are probably more valuable being stretched out as starters.

If I were to guess, the Dodgers are hoping that Brusdar Graterol grabs that closer role as Kenley Jansen did in 2012, and run with it. He is not there yet, but he could be soon.


I agree with that. If we have an internal long-term solution, Graterol is in the running.


Probably not, but any outs are high-leverage if they help the team win.

I see him as most purely a reliever due to the two-pitch mix, whereas Grove has the full arsenal [even if his breaking ball can lack consistency] and Pepiot you’d like to see get a starter’s chance. But Pepiot projects well as a reliever too.


At 7′, Ross Stripling has the second highest release point in MLB to Justin Verlander.

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