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Will Smith 2024 salary arbitration preview

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

Will Smith hits in the heart of the lineup of one of the best lineups in baseball, and made his first All-Star Game in 2023. Now, the Dodgers catcher is eligible for salary arbitration for a second time.

Friday is the date for players and teams to exchange salary arbitration figures, a day that has spurred agreements in recent years. Smith is one of 10 Dodgers eligible for salary arbitration in 2024.

Smith has four years, 90 days of service time, giving him two seasons before reaching free agency. He made $5.25 million in 2023, reaching agreement with the Dodgers on the exchange date.

Good-hitting catchers are a premium in baseball, and Smith has been one of the best backstops in the sport. He hit .261/.359/.438 with 19 home runs, 21 doubles, 63 walks, and a 119 wRC+ in 2023, a season in which he was hampered by a concussion in April, then later from remnants of a broken rib suffered during the same month.

Despite struggling down the stretch, Smith ranked among the top five catchers in baseball in runs scored (80), RBI (76), on-base percentage (.359), walks (63), fWAR (4.4), and bWAR (4.1).

Last year, we looked at some comparable catchers to Smith through three years of service time. This year, let’s run the numbers through four years of service, with a few other catchers entering the fray.

Comparable catchers to Will Smith, single year

Catcher Arb year Service time PA 2B HR BB BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ bWAR fWAR Prev. salary Salary Increase
Catcher Arb year Service time PA 2B HR BB BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ bWAR fWAR Prev. salary Salary Increase
Will Smith 2024 4.090 554 21 19 63 .261/.359/.438 119 4.1 4.4 $5.25m TBD TBD
Gary Sánchez 2021 4.086 178 4 10 18 .147/.253/.365 69 -0.3 -0.1 $5m $6.35m 27.0%
Willson Contreras 2021 4.108 189 10 7 26 .243/.356/.407 110 1.0 1.6 $4.5m $6.65m 47.8%
J.T. Realmuto 2019 4.038 531 30 21 38 .277/.340/.484 127 4.5 4.8 $2.9m $5.9m 103.4%
Yasmani Grandal 2017 4.115 457 14 27 64 .228/.339/.477 121 3.0 5.8 $2.8m $5.5m 96.4%
Sources include MLB Trade Rumors & Cot’s Baseball Contracts

Last year’s long-term contract for Sean Murphy of Atlanta takes him out of the group of potential comparable catchers to Smith.

The pandemic-truncated 2020 season throws a wrench into things in trying to compare launch-year stats for Gary Sánchez and Willson Contreras to Smith in 2023. But looking at the career stats at this point in their careers smoothes things out a bit.

Comparable catchers to Will Smith, career numbers

Catchers Arb year Service PA 2B HR BB BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ bWAR fWAR Prev. salary Salary Increase
Catchers Arb year Service PA 2B HR BB BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ bWAR fWAR Prev. salary Salary Increase
Will Smith 2024 4.090 1,966 84 91 215 .261/.357/.483 128 14.6 15.8 $5.25m TBD TBD
Gary Sánchez 2021 4.086 1,754 65 115 168 .236/.320/.502 117 11.0 11.4 $5m $6.35m 27.0%
Willson Contreras 2021 4.108 1,889 90 74 182 .265/.351/.463 116 12.8 9.9 $4.5m $6.65m 47.8%
J.T. Realmuto 2019 4.038 2,152 114 59 122 .279/.327/.442 108 13.9 11.5 $2.9m $5.9m 103.4%
Yasmani Grandal 2017 4.115 1,660 60 67 236 .238/.348/.428 119 8.8 18.6 $2.8m $5.5m 96.4%
Sources include MLB Trade Rumors & Cot’s Baseball Contracts

J.T. Realmuto and Yasmani Grandal broke out later in their careers than Smith did. They essentially doubled their salary after four years of service, but started out earning less than Smith did in his first arbitration year.

Smith has better career numbers than any catchers in this group, save for FanGraphs really loving Grandal’s defense for those seasons, boosting his career fWAR to that point in his career.

Smith and Realmuto had reasonably similar launch-year numbers. Giving Smith — who has better career numbers — a 103.4-percent increase in 2024 would result in a roughly $10.7 million salary. Giving the Contreras bump of 47.8 percent would put Smith at around $7.8 million.

MLB Trade Rumors in October projected Smith to make $9.3 million in 2024. At Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Smith is slated to earn an even $9 million.

I’ll guess a little higher, tabbing Smith at $9.45 million for 2024.