New book reveals Dodgers’ extreme luck led to Will Smith draft pick
By Adam Weinrib
The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ catcher position was so stacked midway through 2021 that they were able to pawn off a top prospect on the Washington Nationals — Keibert Ruiz, who’s already starting! — in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade, leaving them with … an All-Star caliber starter in Will Smith, one of the league’s sturdiest backups in Austin Barnes, and a new top prospect catcher in Diego Cartaya.
This whole train started when the Dodgers selected Will Smith out of Louisville back in 2016, a decision they almost didn’t make — and one that someone else almost prevented.
One team nearly got in the way: the St. Louis Cardinals, MLB’s eternal thorn, reportedly had every intention of plucking Smith out of college and simply changing the Cardinal coloration on his uniform.
Unfortunately, they lost John Lackey minutes after the Dodgers lost Zack Greinke, so they were not afforded that opportunity. We’ll explain.
Or, rather, Pedro Moura will in the pages of his spectacular new book How to Beat a Broken Game.
According to Moura, the Dodgers became enamored with Smith late in the pre-draft process, and were able to zero in and select him with the 32nd pick of the Compensatory First Round only because the Cardinals, who lost Lackey to the Cubbies, filed their transaction after Greinke’s move to the desert, leaving them with Pick No. 33. Woof.
Dodgers nearly lost Will Smith to St. Louis Cardinals
Silver lining for the Cards? They used their pick on Dylan Carlson, and Yadier Molina probably wouldn’t have taken too kindly to losing his job ahead of his regularly-scheduled time anyway. There’s a good reason Carson Kelly is in Arizona now, right?
At this point, the Dodgers are glad they overlooked Smith’s struggles in the summer wood bat Cape Cod League and zeroed in on the raw talent/ability to get bat on ball in clutch situations that he showed as the collegiate season ended and the draft approached.
If LA hadn’t figured out the Smith conundrum just before the horn, they would be without a rock-steady 27-year-old catcher who posted a 130 OPS+ in 2021. They also likely wouldn’t have felt so comfortable exploring the Scherzer/Turner deal, since Ruiz wouldn’t have been nearly as expendable.
Thank John Lackey and his tardy free agency filing.