Pirates News: Team extends starting pitcher Mitch Keller for 5 years

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In a move that shows their commitment to fortifying their pitching rotation, the Pittsburgh Pirates have secured right-hander Mitch Keller with a lucrative five-year contract extension worth $77 million. The agreement, first reported by Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN, marks a significant investment in the 27-year-old hurler, who was set to enter free agency after the 2025 season. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette had the contract details. This is interesting timing after the team took a public bashing in an article on The Athletic over how owner Bob Nutting and the Front Office have done things over the past decade or so.

Just five years ago, such a pact might have seemed improbable for Keller, whose early major league career was marred by significant struggles. In 2019, he battled through a challenging season, posting an ERA north of 7.00. The following year, his opportunities were limited, making just five starts. Even in 2021, his performance remained inconsistent, with an ERA exceeding 6.00.

However, Keller's resilience and dedication to improvement have paid dividends in recent seasons. Emerging as a dependable starter on the mound, he has transformed into one of the only reliable pitchers for the Pirates. His evolution culminated in an impressive showing in 2023, where he not only continued his success from 2022 but also earned an All-Star selection. While Oscar Marin has not had a ton of success developing young arms thus far, he definitely helped turn around Keller's career.

Over the past two years, Keller has shown significant improvement, as reflected in his statistics from the 2022 and 2023 seasons. In 2022, he made 26 starts with a 3.91 ERA, pitching 159.0 innings and striking out 138 batters. The following year, in 2023, he made 32 starts, posted a 4.21 ERA, pitched 194.1 innings, and recorded an impressive 210 strikeouts.

Keller's ascent from a top pitching prospect to a struggling bust, to now a cornerstone of the Pirates' pitching staff.

With his newfound consistency and effectiveness on the mound, it was really important for the Pirates to extend him. They have trouble developing pitchers so now that they have it is good to see they are planning to keep him around. Keller was slated to be a free agent after the 2025 season.