The Oakland Athletics have come to terms on a one-year contract with right-hander Paul Blackburn. Per Susan Slusser of the SF Chronicle, the deal is for $3.45m. It's an increase of just over $1.5m over last year's salary for Blackburn, who is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility.
Blackburn threw 103.2 inninigs in 2023 for the Athletics, posting a 4-7 record with a 4.43 ERA and a 3.96 FIP. Despite missing nearly two months with a fingernail avulsion on his throwing hand, Blackburn's velocity was a tick higher than in 2022. He was able to increase his strikeout rate from 19.1% to 22.4%.
His four-seamer got hit hard by opposing batters but he had some good success with the off-speed stuff. His slider and curveball were his best pitches in 2023. Batters slugged just .284 against the slider last year, and .320 against the curveball, with both figures being better than league average.
Blackburn also wound up in the 86th percentile for hard-hit percentage, and his 5.8% barrel rate allowed was good for 82nd percentile. Those figures were largely due to his success with his breaking pitches, which he relied on more in 2023 than ever before.
If Blackburn is able to continue to reduce his fastball usage and rely on his most successful pitches, he should have a strong year in 2024. GM David Forst has explicitly mentioned that the A's aren't planning on trading Blackburn, so we can expect to see a fair amount of him in the rotation moving forward.
Including 2024, Blackburn has two years of arbitration eligibility left, before hitting the free agent market after the 2025 season. We'll have to wait and see what the A's end up doing with him. They haven't been successful or interested in signing players to long-term extensions, so the trade focus might change depending on Blackburn's success this season.