Dodgers arbitration deadline ends successfully, but what's Will Smith's future?

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three
Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Three / Norm Hall/GettyImages

The Dodgers have had a very busy arbitration deadline day, even pulling off a trade with the Cubs, which sent reliever Yency Almonte and top prospect Michael Busch to Chicago in exchange for prospects Jackson Ferris and Zyhir Hope. That cleared up two roster spots, one which will be immediately filled when Teoscar Hernández's deal is finalized.

Although the Dodgers had already settled on a $1.9 million figure with Almonte to avoid arbitration back in November, they still had a number of other players to settle with.

Walker Buehler was next on the docket. He agreed to a one-year deal for 2024 earlier in the day, which was the Dodgers' easiest task because he didn't play in 2023. His salary just rolled over.

Dodgers Arbitration Tracker: All Eligible Players for 2024 Have Signed

Buehler also got a pair of $125,000 incentives if he wins NLCS or World Series MVP. He'll be expected step up when the Dodgers likely make the postseason, but there is concern because he could miss time to start 2024.

A crop of other Dodgers pitchers — Ryan Yarbrough ($3.9 million), Caleb Ferguson ($2.4 million), Dustin May ($2.135 million), Evan Phillips ($4 million), and JP Feyereisen ($770,000) — and their agreements came to light in quick succession following Buehler. None of these are particularly surprising, and most came out within a $100,000-$300,000 range in either direction of MLB Trade Rumors' predictions. Yarbrough and Ferguson each came out with $100,000 more, while May and Feyereisen came out with $265,000 and $230,000 less than expected, respectively.

The biggest raise went to Phillips, whose $4 million is up from $1.3 million in 2023, and will get $600,000 more than MLB Trade Rumors predicted. Phillips has been just about lights out for the Dodgers' bullpen over the past two seasons, so he's seen two significant pay hikes accordingly in his first two years of arbitration eligibility.

Gavin Lux, in the same boat as Buehler after missing all of 2023, agreed to a $1.225 million deal, which was up just a bit from a predicted $1.1 million in his first year of eligibility. Lux will return from injury to a near-everyday role as the Dodgers' shortstop.

And then came the big boys: Will Smith, Brusdar Graterol and Alex Vesia.

Some fans were hoping for a contract extension for Smith, but that will have to wait. He and the Dodgers settled at $8.55 million for the 2024 season. The star catcher has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency, and he'll stand to make a lot more come 2025. The Dodgers do have an advantageous situation with Smith being one of the best in the game and a couple of promising top prospects in Diego Cartaya and Dalton Rushing atop the farm system, but many are wondering what Smith's future looks like. He feels too good of a player at too important a position to slowly creep toward free agency without any long-term security in LA.

Graterol, who finally got through a full season without any glaring injury issues, also settled with LA as the two sides agreed on a $2.7 million salary in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The burly right-hander figures to be an important bullpen piece yet again.

Vesia, in search of a bounce-back year after a disastrous 2023 campaign, was the final player to settle, but the figures haven't been revealed. All in all, a successful day for the Dodgers, who will not head to an arbitration hearing with any of their players. Now ... how about another trade?