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Will Smith signs with Dodgers for $8.55 million, avoiding salary arbitration

MLB: SEP 24 Giants at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dodgers on Thursday agreed to terms with catcher Will Smith on a one-year deal, avoiding salary arbitration. Smith in 2024 will be paid $8.55 million, per multiple reports.

This is the second year of arbitration eligibility for Smith, who has four years, 90 days of major league service time. He earned $5.25 million in 2023, and this new pact represents a 62.9-percent raise.

The $8.55 million salary is a record for a catcher in his second year of arb-eligibility, per both Kiley McDaniel at ESPN and Dylan Hernández at the Los Angeles Times. That makes some sense, as some of the best catchers in recent memory either broke out a little late (J.T. Realmuto) or signed long-term extensions before even reaching arbitration (Buster Posey, Salvadore Pérez).

Sean Murphy, who is in the same service time class as Smith, last year signed a six-year, $73 million contrat with Atlanta that bought out his three arb years plus three years of free agency, will earn $9 million in 2024, for instance. Murphy earned $4 million last year, giving him $13 million over what would have been his first two arb years, while Smith got $13.8 million by going year to year.

MLB Trade Rumors projected a $9.3 million salary for Smith this season, while Cot’s Baseball Contracts predicted $9 million for the catcher. I guessed $9.45 million for Smith this season.

Smith has been one of the best catchers in baseball since his debut in 2019. Over the last five seasons, Smith’s 15.8 FanGraphs WAR is second among catchers, trailing only J.T. Realmuto (19.8). Since his first major league game on May 28, 2019, Smith’s 91 home runs are second-most by a catcher, trailing only Salvador Pérez (105).

Smith made his first All-Star team in 2023, and hit .261/.359/.438 with 19 home runs, 21 doubles, and a 119 wRC+, batting third for the first Los Angeles Dodgers team to score 900 runs in a season.