mlb

Dodgers’ Smith has rounded into a star this year

Dodgers catcher Will Smith has shown how far he has come and how long he is expected to be a part of the process this season.

LOS ANGELES — Baseball embraces its numbers, especially the round ones that signal you have arrived, all by adding a zero.

Dodgers catcher Will Smith has added some significant goose eggs this season that have both signaled how far he has come and how long he is expected to be a part of the process.

In March, the number of the moment was a 10, marking the length of years in his $140-million contract extension. Smith still had one more season of arbitration eligibility and was set to make $8.5 million in 2024, but the willingness to commit bumped his season salary to nearly double that at $16.6 million.

And to make sure he is offering value with his generous raise, Smith entered this weekend’s series against the Colorado Rockies with a .296 batting average, nine home runs and 36 RBIs.

Among MLB catchers, he entered the weekend with the third best OPS at .876, the third best on-base percentage at .360, the fourth most RBIs at 36 and the fifth most home runs with nine. He is right on pace with his best home-run season of 25 in 2021.

He has not hit less than 19 home runs in his previous three seasons.

Smith’s two most recent home runs came at New York against the Mets that gave him another impressive round number with 100 for his career.

The century mark essentially made it official that Smith is a group of Dodgers catching legends now. The only other backstops that reached the 100-homer mark in a Dodgers uniform were Roy Campanella (260), Mike Piazza (177) and Steve Yeager (100). Campanella and Piazza are in the Hall of Fame.

“It’s incredibly rare to find the package of talent, makeup, leadership quality and I think all of those things Will possesses is why we feel good about this deal and it’s something we’ve been pursuing for awhile,” Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said. told reporters when Smith’s extension was completed. “It’s just not common (with catchers).”

While it might look like Smith was the fortunate one to land such a lucrative contract, Gomes said the Dodgers “luckily” completed the deal.

“I’m continuing to work in the (batting) cage, continuing to fine tune and adjust and just try to stay locked in,” Smith said Wednesday after his second career two-homer game.

As for his 100th home run, Smith raised his eyebrows and cracked a grin.

“Yeah, that’s a lot,” he said. “It’s awesome. Growing up, I never thought I would be in that situation with that many. But it’s just on to the next one. Enjoy the win and be back out there.”

If all goes to plan, Smith will be in Dodgers uniform and letting his play do the boldest of talking on into 2034.

When he signed his deal, Smith became just the 27th player to land an MLB contract of 10 years or more. Fernando Tatis Jr. tops the length-of-contract list with the 14-year, $340 million deal he signed with the Padres that began in 2021.

Two other Dodgers signed a deal of at least a decade this past winter when Shohei Ohtani reached a 10-year, $700-million deal and Yoshinobu Yamamoto landed a 12-year, $325-million pact.

Mookie Betts landed a 12-year, $365-million deal that started in 2021.

It means Smith, Ohtani, Yamamoto and Betts will continue to be the veteran core into what is the distant future, in baseball terms.

And with two of the Dodgers’ top prospects catchers in Dalton Rushing and Diego Cartaya, by locking in Smith to a long deal, it means that one of both of that young duo can be used as trade bait to help land an impact player at either this season’s trade deadline, this upcoming winter or beyond.

“Obviously making a bet of this nature, we felt even more comfortable being that we’ve seen him since he was drafted,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said after the Smith extension, according to the Orange County Register. “We know the work ethic. We know the character.”

As far as draft picks go, selecting Smith No. 32 overall in 2016 was about as good as a late first-round pick could go. Officially, Smith is considered a compensatory pick of the first round.

To show how fickle the MLB draft can be, Smith’s Louisville teammate Corey Ray was the No. 5 overall pick in 2016 by the Milwaukee Brewers as a can’t-miss outfield prospect. Ray ended up playing just one major league game — for the Brewers in 2021 — and is now a rookie-league manager in the Chicago Cubs organization.

Smith knows how fortunate his route to success has been and said so when his contract extension was complete.

“I’ve loved being here since I got drafted,” Smith said about being in the Dodgers’ organization. “I don’t think I would be the player I am without being here. So for me to probably finish my career a Dodger means a lot.

“Looking forward, to me, there’s no better organization that’s more committed to winning a World Series and that’s most important to me when it comes to baseball. I’m looking forward to these next 10 years.”

The Dodgers are looking forward to it just as much.