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Mitch Keller agrees to five-year extension with Pirates

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(Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)

Mitch Keller agrees to five-year extension with Pirates

Right-handed starter Mitch Keller has agreed to a five-year extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates, ESPN MLB insiders Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel were the first to report Thursday. Keller originally had two more years left on his deal, which would’ve taken him through the 2025 season.

Keller’s extension will be worth $77 million, Pirates beat writer Jason Mackey of the Post-Gazette was among the first to report.

His 2024 base salary ($15M) will be $5M lower than it is the rest of his contract ($20M), in addition to a $2M signing bonus spread across each season ($400K per season), per Spotrac. He was entering his second year of arbitration after making $2.4 million last season.

In terms of average annual value, his contract will be the 36th-highest amongst all starting pitchers, sandwiched between Baltimore’s Corbin Burnes ($15.6M) and Atlanta’s Max Fried ($15M). He will be paid nearly $5 million more, on average, more than any other Pirate player (including Bryan Reynolds — $10.3M).

The contract is very well-deserved. Keller, who will turn 28-years-old on April 4, pitched to a 4.21 ERA and 3.80 FIP across a career-most 194.1 innings a year ago. He struck out 210 batters to walking just 55 walks, sporting the NL’s eight-best 3.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio and ninth-best K-BB% (18.2%).

He graded in the 70th percentile or better in average exit velocity allowed (77th), walk rate (76th) and hard-hit percentage allowed (74th), per Statcast.

Good starting pitching is a key to long-term success, though the Pirates team has plenty of other holes it must plug. The Pirates operate as one of MLB’s smallest markets, so they should be thankful they were able to secure a deal with one of the NL’s better starting pitchers for an inexpensive cost.

Plus, due to adding a sinker and sweeper into his repertoire in 2022 and a cutter in 2023 (trimming his four-seam usage), Keller’s balanced six-pitch mix is one of the biggest reasons why he was able to shake off a poor first three seasons (2019-21). His two-year success appears to be sustainable in the short-term and potentially the long-term, which could make this a very good deal for the Pirates (if he’s on the team for the duration of the contract).

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This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.

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