AP Source: Pittsburgh Pirates, pitcher Mitch Keller agree to 5-year extension

All-Star pitcher Mitch Keller and Pittsburgh finalized a $77 million, five-year contract on Friday. (Matt Slocum/AP)

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates and All-Star pitcher Mitch Keller agreed to a five-year contract worth $77 million, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The deal is pending a physical, the person said on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not yet final.

The contract, the largest the Pirates have given a pitcher, begins this season and runs through 2028. It replaces a one-year agreement last month worth $5,442,500.

Keller would have been eligible for free agency after the 2025 season.

A 27-year-old right-hander, Keller is coming off a breakthrough season in which he became a first-time All-Star. He finished 13-9 with a 4.21 ERA on a Pirates team that went 76-86.

The agreement figures to give Pittsburgh some long-term stability at the top of the rotation as they try to move closer to contention in the NL Central following a methodical top-to-bottom overhaul that began when the team hired general manager Ben Cherington in the fall of 2019.

The deal is the last in a series of moves in recent years to lock down players the team considers the “core” of the rebuild. Pittsburgh signed Gold Glove third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes to a $70 million, eight-year deal before the 2022 season and inked centrefielder Bryan Reynolds to a $106.75 million, eight-year deal last April.

Keller, a second-round pick in the 2014 amateur draft, endured significant growing pains after arriving in the majors in 2019. He went 7-17 with a 6.02 ERA during his first three seasons and was briefly demoted to the bullpen for a brief stretch in 2022.

The addition of a sweeper to his repertoire and an uptick in velocity has helped Keller become the front-line starter the Pirates have lacked since trading Joe Musgrove to San Diego following the 2020 season. Keller fanned a career-best 210 hitters last year, becoming the first Pirates pitcher to reach 200 since Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano in 2015.

Keller likely will be the opening day starter for a second straight year and his presence gives the Pirates someone to build around as they try to put together a staff comprised of largely home-grown talent, a group that includes 2023 top overall pick Paul Skenes and 21-year-old right-hander Bubba Chandler.

While there’s a chance Skenes could reach the majors this season, Chandler may be a bit further away. Pittsburgh likely will break camp with a rotation that includes Keller, free-agent signees Marco Gonzalez and Martin Pérez. There’s plenty of competition for the final two spots, a group that includes former first-round pick Quinn Priester and Roansy Contreras.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.