Sources: Pirates sign Mitch Keller to 5-year, $77M extension

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed right-hander Mitch Keller to a five-year extension, locking up another young core player as the team continues to try to return to the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade.

The team did not disclose terms in Friday's announcement, with sources telling ESPN the extension is worth $77 million.

The deal, which begins this year and ends after the 2028 season, will pay Keller $7.5 million in 2024 -- more than $2 million above where he had settled with the team in arbitration, sources said. In what would have been his final year of arbitration in 2025, Keller will receive $15 million. For the three free agent years the Pirates bought out, they will pay Keller $16.5 million, $18 million and $20 million.

"This is a great day for the Pittsburgh Pirates," Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said in a statement. "The intangibles that Mitch brings, in terms of head, heart, commitment, attitude and leadership really makes a huge impact not only on who we are now as a team but who we will be as we move forward. Having known Mitch for nearly 10 years, to watch him grow as a player and person has been a privilege."

On Thursday, the Pirates had announced that Keller would be their Opening Day starter against the Miami Marlins, taking that role for the second straight season.

Keller, 27, had a breakout 2023 season in which he was an All-Star for the first time and struck out 210 in a career-high 194⅓ innings, anchoring a rotation in which he soon could be joined by Paul Skenes, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft.

Keller is the third core member of the Pirates to receive an extension. Third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes and outfielder Bryan Reynolds both signed deals in recent years that can go through at least the 2030 season.

A hard-throwing right-hander whom Pittsburgh chose in the second round in 2014 out of an Iowa high school, Keller was a top prospect but struggled at the outset of his career. He turned it around in 2022 and got a lot of work in 2023, finishing fourth in the National League in innings pitched last season with a nearly 4-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The Pirates got off to a hot start in 2023 but faded down the stretch, finishing 76-86 and in fourth place in the National League Central. They signed a slew of veterans this winter, including reliever Aroldis Chapman, left-handed starter Martin Perez, first baseman Rowdy Tellez, catcher Yasmani Grandal and longtime franchise icon Andrew McCutchen.

Keller, who was 13-9 with a 4.21 ERA last season, is 25-38 with a 4.71 ERA in 102 career appearances (100 starts). He has 521 strikeouts in 523⅔ innings.