Detroit Tigers: What does the Mitch Keller extension mean for Tarik Skubal?

The Pittsburgh Pirates made news by signing one of their top young pitchers Mitch Keller to a lucrative contract extension. So what does that mean for Tarik Skubal and the Detroit Tigers?

Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics
Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics / Brandon Vallance/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed starting pitcher Mitch Keller to a five-year $77 million deal in an attempt to keep the youngster around long term and let him develop in The Steel City. Keller broke out with the Pirates in 2023, posting a 13-9 record with a 4.21 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 32 starts while also getting selected to the All-Star Game. Detroit Tigers "ace" Tarik Skubal also had a breakout season in 2023 despite some injuries. Let's look at what these two have in common.

Both Mitch Keller and Tarik Skubal are 27 years old with Keller debuting for the Pirates in 2019, and Skubal for the Tigers in 2020. Both have been heralded as the "ace" of the next wave of talent for their respective teams and have tried their best to take on that role. Both players have excelled in the strikeout category with Skubal posting a career 10.0 K/9, and Keller having 9.0 K/9.

These two also have a lot of differences. Skubal adds value to the Detroit Tigers by being a left-handed pitcher, but his injury history does come into question, along with his command. Since claiming a full-time role with the Pirates in 2021, Keller has been very consistent, pitching in 23, 31, and 32 games from 2021-2023.

Keller has nearly 150 more innings pitched than Skubal, despite both players taking on full-time roles in 2021. Skubal's numbers have been better than Keller's overall, with Skubal posting a career 3.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 109 ERA+ (100 ERA+ represents a league average pitcher). Keller, in the meantime, has posted a 4.71 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and 91 ERA+ in his career.

Detroit Tigers need to commit to Tarik Skubal.

If the Detroit Tigers are committed to Tarik Skubal as the future ace of the staff, the time to jump at a long-term contract is now.

With a player in a similar situation to Skubal but with worse numbers in his career signing a five-year $77 million contract, it makes you wonder what the asking price will be for Skubal when he hits free agency in a couple of years.

Younger players are signing longer contracts earlier in their careers, so it appears that teams are willing to take more risks when it comes to locking up young talent. Skubal is already 27 years old, so his prime starts now.

If the Tigers want to take advantage of Skubal's best years, the Mitch Keller signing should be an eye-opener for Scott Harris to sign Skubal now instead of waiting for his price to get out of Chris Ilitch's spending range.