Stop acting as if Pirates starter Mitch Keller is paid to be an ace

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates shelling out $15 million a year for Mitch Keller might raise some eyebrows, especially given their reputation for penny-pinching. Many were excited as the team handed out their biggest AAV to a player ever. After all he was an All-Star in 2023 and had a very strong end to the 2022 season. However, there were some question marks regarding Keller. He struggled in the second half of 2023, posting an ERA of 5.6 over his finally 77.1 innings of work.

This year Keller is off to a poor start through, checks notes, 2 starts. So far through 11 innings of work he has given up earned runs. This gives him an ERA of 6.55 which obviously is not what the Pirates or fans want to see. There currently is a lot of discontent with Keller especially given his raise this year.

But let's put this in perspective. Keller's not being paid like a superstar ace; he's more of a solid mid-tier starter. In fact, among starters, he's only the 39th highest-paid starting pitcher this season. So, he's not breaking the bank for the Pirates and is also not being paid to pitch shut-out after shut-out. So maybe expectations need tempered some.

Sure, Keller's had his ups and downs, but he's shown improvement and durability. He's not the disaster prospect he once was. Even if he has some rough outings, there's no need to panic. Every pitcher goes through slumps, even aces. Keller is not paid to be an ace, so its okay for him to have slumps, as long as he actually bounces back from those.

So, while $15 million might seem like a lot for the Pirates, it's not outrageous considering Keller's role and the market.

It's an investment in a pitcher who can give them solid innings and, hopefully, some moments of top of rotation performances. But do not let the Pirates cheapness trick you into thinking Keller is like the truly elite arms in Baseball. For reference pitchers like Seth Lugo, Sean Manaea, Michael Wacha, and Frankie Montas are all making similar money.