Rockies Sign Pierce Johnson – MLB Trade Rumors

11:33am: Johnson will be guaranteed $5MM on the contract and can earn another $750K of incentives, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. It’s a strong guarantee for a pitcher coming off an injury-plagued season, though the Rockies perhaps needed to make an aggressive offer in order to persuade the righty to spend his home games at Coors Field, even if Johnson is a Denver native.

11:21am: The Rockies have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent righty Pierce Johnson, reports Thomas Harding of (via Twitter). The team is expected to announce the contract today, Harding added. Johnson is represented by John Boggs & Associates.

Johnson, 31, once ranked among the sport’s top pitching prospects with the Cubs, who originally drafted him with the No. 43 overall pick in 2012, but he didn’t establish himself in Chicago or in San Francisco after being plucked off waivers by the Giants in 2018. An impressive strikeout rate in Triple-A might’ve helped him garner some attention overseas, however, and Johnson parlayed a dominant one-year stop with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball in 2019 into a three-year run with the Padres.

In 2020-21, after signing a two-year deal that contained a 2022 club option, Johnson was a reliable member of the San Diego bullpen. Through 78 2/3 frames, he pitched to a 3.09 ERA with an excellent 32.1% strikeout rate — albeit against an 11.1% walk rate that resided well north of the league average.

The Padres picked up their $3MM option on the heels of that strong showing, but the 2022 season brought an unwelcome change of fortune, as Johnson was sidelined for much of the season due to a forearm injury. When healthy enough to pitch, Johnson totaled just 14 1/3 innings of 5.02 ERA ball; his 32.8% strikeout rate and 12.5% walk rate were at least loosely in line with his 2020-21 levels, but Johnson was plagued by a sky-high .382 average on balls in play. Whether because of the forearm injury or something else, Johnson’s fastball — which averaged 96.3 mph in 2020 — sat at a diminished 94.7 mph in 2022.

More to come.

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