The Athletic's extension comp for Will Smith is a familiar name for Dodgers fans

Feb 19, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith (16) participates in base
Feb 19, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith (16) participates in base / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletic's annual MLB Extension Week couldn't have kicked off at a more perfect time. The first article in the series, written by Tim Britton, went live on March 4, the very same day Zack Wheeler agreed to a three-year, $126 million extension with the Phillies, marking the richest extension by average annual value in baseball history.

Wheeler's extension had a few immediate implications for the two other big pitchers left on the free agent market this year — Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery — and it will certainly shape the outlook on extensions/free agencies for starting pitchers next offseason.

The Dodgers have a few upcoming free agents and/or extension candidates, but perhaps the most worthy of job security and nice compensation attached to it is Will Smith. Going into 2023, his first year of arbitration eligibility, Smith saw his pay multiplied over seven times from league minimum in 2022 ($730,000). In 2024, he got a $3.3 million pay hike to become the Dodgers' highest-paid arb-eligible player this year.

Before Smith and the Dodgers agreed to $8.55 million for the year, there were questions of whether or not the team would extend him. He still has one more arbitration year before he hits free agency, so we aren't necessarily coming down the wire here, but Wheeler's extension did raise questions about Smith's future.

Last year, Britton and The Athletic predicted six years and $88 million ($14.67 million/year) on an extension for Smith. Given his raise this year, their prediction is now five years and $82.5 million ($16.5 million/year), drawing comparisons to the contract that another former Dodger, Yasmani Grandal, signed with the White Sox after leaving LA (subscription required).

The Athletic's extension prediction for Will Smith draws comparisons to former Dodger Yasmani Grandal

After four seasons with the Dodgers, Grandal rejected a qualifying offer from the team and went to the Brewers for one year and $18.25 million. When he hit free agency again, he signed a four-year, $73 million deal ($18.25 million/year) with the White Sox. His production declined in Chicago; he hit .226/.343/.375 and missed large chunks of his last three seasons with recurring injuries. His four years were up after the 2023 season ended and his free agency lasted until mid-February this year, when he signed a one-year deal with the Pirates for a severe pay cut ($2.5 million).

We should hope and pray that Smith doesn't see the same kind of decline, but what we've seen so far does indicate that he's deserving of the kind of money Grandal was making at his peak. Smith has been the better hitter for LA over five years than Grandal was for four, and his defense behind the plate has tended to be spotty, but was much better in 2023 than Grandal's was in 2020-2023.

The Dodgers still have some time to decide if they're going to extend Smith, but he seems like too much of an asset, especially after his All-Star season last year, to let walk in free agency.