With Mitch Keller having just two more years of team control and the Pittsburgh Pirates being unlikely to contend this season, should they consider trading their top starting pitcher?
With the lackluster offseason that the Pittsburgh Pirates have had up to this date, the message from the front office and ownership of wanting to compete in 2024 seems to be far-fetched. There have been no real notable signings that are showing any sort of commitment to strong success in the 2024 season or the future besides waiting for top prospects in the organization to develop and have an impact on the club.
With all of that on the table, arguably the most valuable trade piece on the Pittsburgh Pirates Major League roster is Mitch Keller, and moving him could bring in the type of haul that could have the compete in 2024 message to be put on pause. I want to be clear in this piece that I do not want to see Keller traded and I think that he could be a front line starter for a playoff contending Pirates team in the future, but this offseason has been so dry for the Pirates, the looking at this direction is a possibility.
Before diving too deep into the specifics of a mock trade that I have built for this deal, I would like to note that this would be a trade happening before Opening Day. That is where he will have the most value without any risk.
Trading for Keller now would assure a team two full seasons of team control at a fairly cheap price and be able to negotiate a long-term agreement. However, I am also open to the idea of moving him towards the deadline if the Pirates are looking to be out of it by then. My only fear with that is that you are risking the chance of injury and poor performance which would derail any chance of getting the value you would almost assured to get from him before the season started.
Keller is coming off a career year making 32 starts and posting a 4.21 ERA and career-best 1.24 WHIP over 194.1 IP with 210 strikeouts. Keller was also one of two Pirates that made the 2023 NL All-Star team.
Keller being a reliable arm to take the ball every 5th day is prominent for any team that is trying to contend and at his best can be the no. 2 for a loaded staff. I think that the only thing that people view Keller in a negative light is the collapse he had later in the 2023 season. He just has not put together a full year of dominance. My only rebuttal to that is that having a guy take the ball every 5th day consistently and being a guy that every time he pitches you have a great chance to win is very valuable in today's game.
Teams that I see as landing spots to trade for Keller would be the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, and Baltimore Orioles. For this mock trade, I will be completing a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies as they are in the midst of a championship window and could desperately use quality arms in the middle of the rotation.