Pittsburgh Pirates, pitcher Mitch Keller agree to 5-year extension, source tells AP

Thu, Feb 22, 2024
MLB News (AP)

Pittsburgh Pirates, pitcher Mitch Keller agree to 5-year extension, source tells AP

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Pirates and All-Star pitcher Mitch Keller agreed to a five-year contract on Thursday worth $77 million.

The deal is pending a physical, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was not yet final.

The contract, the largest the Pirates have given a pitcher, begins this season and runs through the 2028 season. Keller, 27, is coming off a breakthrough season in 2023 in which he went 13-9 with a 4.21 ERA and made the All-Star team for the first time in his career.

The signing gives Pittsburgh some stability at the top of the rotation as they try to move closer to contention in the NL Central following a methodical top-to-bottom overhaul that began when the team hired general manager Ben Cherington in the fall of 2019.

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The deal is the last in a series of moves in recent years to lock down players the team considers the "core" of the rebuild. Pittsburgh signed Gold Glove third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes to an eight-year deal before the 2022 season and inked centerfielder Bryan Reynolds to an eight-year deal last April.

Keller, a second-round pick in 2014, endured significant growing pains after arriving in the majors in 2019. He went 7-17 with a 6.02 ERA during his first three seasons and was briefly demoted to the bullpen for a brief stretch in 2022.

The addition of a "sweeper" to his repertoire and an uptick in velocity has helped Keller become the front-line starter the Pirates have lacked since trading Joe Musgrove to San Diego following the 2020 season. Keller fanned a career-best 210 hitters last year, becoming the first Pirate to reach 200 strikeouts since Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano in 2015.

Keller likely will be the opening day starter for a second straight year and his presence gives the Pirates someone to build around as they try to put together a staff comprised of largely home-grown talent, a group that includes 2023 top overall pick Paul Skenes and 21-year-old right-hander Bubba Chandler.

While there's a chance Skenes could reach the majors this season, Chandler may be a bit further away. Pittsburgh likely will break camp with a rotation that includes Keller, free-agent signees Marco Gonzalez and Martin Perez. There's plenty of competition for the final two spots, a group that includes former first-round pick Quinn Priester and Roansy Contreras.

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WILL GRAVES Graves is a national writer for The Associated Press, based in Pittsburgh. He covers the NFL, MLB, NHL, the Olympics and major college sports. twitter facebook mailto "
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