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Elephant Rumblings: Could Paul Blackburn be dealt by the deadline?

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Oakland Athletics v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Happy Wednesday, Athletics Nation!

Prior to the 2021 season, Paul Blackburn was designated for assignment after struggling with injuries and inconsistent performance for four years. He cleared waivers and stayed with the A’s organization, and then was called up to replace Chris Bassitt after The Hound’s terrible injury last August. The A’s went into freefall around that time; they fell out of playoff contention and Blackburn continued to struggle, posting a 5.87 ERA in nine starts as the Chapman-Olson core played out its final days in Oakland.

All told, there was little reason to expect much from Blackburn after five seasons of bouncing between the minor and major leagues.

  • Blackburn, MLB 2017-21: 5.74 ERA, 138 ip, 77 Ks, 38 BB, 18 HR, 4.70 FIP

But lo and behold, Blackburn took advantage of the void left by the departures of Bassitt and Sean Manaea last offseason. He took the fourth spot in the 2022 rotation and demonstrated huge improvements right out of the gate. Two-plus months into the season, Blackburn’s line remains impressive.

  • Blackburn, 2022: 2.31 ERA, 66⅓ ip, 47 Ks, 15 BB, 3 HR, 3.13 FIP

Blackburn doesn’t have stuff like Frankie Montas, but he’s getting comparably good results. Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors pondered the prospects of a Blackburn move as the trade deadline approaches.

Adams cites some good reasons to think that Blackburn’s improvements aren’t just a fluke. He doesn’t throw high octane, but his velocity has increased a tick over recent seasons. His K rate is low, but so is his walk rate. He continues to induce a lot of groundballs and weak contact, and his Statcast “barrel” rate is less than half the league average.

The 28-year-old righty remains under control for three more years after this season, so he might be a good option for the A’s to keep around as a reliable mainstay of the rebuilding club’s rotation. But controllable pitching is precious to contending teams, and if the price is right, the A’s front office might consider a deal.

What say ye, AN? Will Paul Blackburn still be wearing green and gold at the end of this season? What kind of return would you accept at the trade deadline if he maintains his current level of performance? Let us know in the comments below!

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