The Athletics have designated right-hander Paul Blackburn for assignment, the team announced Tuesday. His spot on the 40-man roster goes to first baseman/designated hitter Mitch Moreland, who has passed a physical and thus made his one-year agreement with Oakland official.
Blackburn, 27, has seen time in the big leagues with the A’s in each of the past four seasons but has yet to consistently put together strong results. He did notch 58 2/3 innings of 3.22 ERA ball as a rookie in 2017, but that was accompanied by a paltry 9.2 percent strikeout rate that served as a clear indicator he’d have difficulty maintaining that output. While Blackburn has succeeded in upping his strikeout rate a bit — it’s still well below league average — he’s nevertheless been hit quite hard in the three years since that debut. Over his past 41 innings in the big leagues, he’s yielded 44 earned runs.
Overall, Blackburn carries a 5.69 ERA in 99 2/3 MLB frames to date, although there are certainly some intriguing aspects to the righty’s track record. He’s induced grounders at a rather hefty 53.2 percent clip thanks to a low-spin sinker, and he’s walked just 6.5 percent of opponents he’s faced in the Majors. Blackburn has a sub-4.00 ERA at every minor league level and a 3.47 ERA mark in parts of eight minor league seasons overall. He’s also out of minor league options, however, meaning he’d have to break camp with another club in order to avoid again being designated for assignment.
The A’s will have a week to trade Blackburn, try to pass him through outright waivers or release him. Should he go unclaimed on waivers, he’ll remain with the club and presumably head to Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. At that point, he’d have a chance to force his way back onto the MLB roster or could be sent to Triple-A to open the year as a relatively seasoned upper-level depth piece.