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What Might a Mitch Keller Extension Look Like for Pirates?

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Mitch Keller

Coming off of back-to-back terrific starts, Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller has been the talk of the town.

On May 8, Keller threw his first-career complete game shutout after easily navigating the Colorado Rockies’ lineup. Keller yielded only four hits, walked only one and recorded eight strikeouts en route to his 103-pitch, nine inning masterclass.

As a follow up act, Keller was just as impressive in his Mother’s Day start against the Orioles in Baltimore. Keller struck out a career-high 13 while not walking a single batter in seven shutout innings on the mound.

Thanks to his 16 scoreless innings over his last two starts, Keller now has a 2.38 ERA through his first nine starts of the year to go along with a 5-1 record. He’s recorded 69 strikeouts which is third most in the National League.

Keller’s emergence over the last 12 months has been eye-opening. So much so that Keller went from being a big question mark to the undisputed ace of the Pirates’ staff.

In a recent radio interview on 93.7 The Fan, Keller revealed that he and the Pirates had discussed a possible extension.

So, what might a Keller extension look like? To begin, let’s lay some ground work.

Keller is under club control through the 2025 season as he is under contract through this season in addition to two more years. For his career, the 27-year-old has accumulated a 6.1 fWAR.

To see what an extension might look like, let’s look at some similar deals from past years in the same ball park as Keller’s service time, age and WAR.

RHP Sandy Alcantara 

  • Contract Details: 5 years, $56M, $21M club option with $2M buyout
  • Service Time: 3.100
  • WAR: 7.5
  • Date of Extension: 11/28/21
  • Age at Signing: 26

RHP Aaron Nola

  • Contract Details: 4 years, $45M, $16M club option with $4.25M buyout
  • Service Time: 3.076
  • WAR: 13.8
  • Date of Extension: 2/13/19
  • Age at Signing: 25

RHP Carlos Martinez

  • Contract Details: 5 years, $51M, $17M club option with $500K buyout and $18M club option with $500K buyout
  • Service Time: 3.073
  • WAR: 8.1
  • Date of Extension: 2/2/17
  • Age at Signing: 25

While none of these three extensions are an exact match for Keller’s current situation, they are the three most comparable ones in recent history.

While all three are relatively in the same ballpark, Alcantara’s extension from two offseasons ago is probably the best match for what a potential deal would look like for Keller and the Pirates when looking at the different factors.

Alcantara, of course, went on to win the National League Cy Young in 2022.

From the Pirates’ perspective, they could be looking at north of $10M AAV at around five years or so. The deal, of course, could include a club option for a sixth year.

If the Pirates and Keller do try and push for an extension to get done, keep these three deals in mind when evaluating what a deal could look like.

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