With so few offensive talents behind the plate these days ... anywhere in MLB, it would make all the sense in the world for the Los Angeles Dodgers to lock up their rare bird in Will Smith (who isn't exactly a defensive liability, either).
In that case, why haven't we heard about progressing extension talks? Or any extension talks? Why, on the other side of the coin, did Red Sox insider Chris Cotillo peg Smith as a potential trade candidate who could fill Boston's void earlier in the offseason? And is there really room for another Dodger with the Sox?
This week, in Athletic writer Fabian Ardaya's Dodgers mailbag (subscription required), we might've been given a hint of an answer.
Per Ardaya's intel, left-hander Julio Urías is the only current Dodger who the team has engaged on an extension -- and they were wise to do so, considering his price is only climbing with each start, and he'll walk at the end of the year and leave a rehabbing Walker Buehler as the team's best hope.
As for Smith, he's got three years of control attached to him, but it's been all quiet on the NL Western front thus far. Is the team willing to run out the clock on Smith's tenure to pave the way for Diego Cartaya?
Could Dodgers trade Will Smith if they're not pursuing extension?
In all honesty, it depends on how comfortable they are with Austin Barnes during what might be a bridge season anyway, as well as how close they consider Cartaya.
If Dodgers brass believe Cartaya can snag the job behind the plate entering 2024, then ... why not dangle Smith in a silent trade market and see what you can hoard? The alternatives in the catching market right now are Gary Sánchez and 16-year-old Padres prospect Ethan Salas, and that's only a slight exaggeration.
Retaining Smith undoubtedly gives the Dodgers the best chance to win in 2023, unless you're at the front of the line for Roberto Peréz Believers. That said, the Dodgers front office hasn't exactly spent much time this offseason focusing on how to give the current group the best chance to win, aligning instead on a mission statement for next offseason.
As difficult as it is to sell the removal of an All-Star from the lineup at a premium position, it's never been easier than right now, following Smith's active participation in a postseason choke (.188 with a pair of RBI in a four-game dismantling at the hands of the Padres).
Odds are still in favor of Smith staying, especially with so much control on the books. That said, the chirping trade birdies are louder than they've ever been this offseason, while the Dodgers front office stays silent.
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