Pierce Johnson, Rockies finalize 1-year deal

December 13th, 2022

DENVER -- The Rockies announced a one-year deal with Colorado native Pierce Johnson on Tuesday to bolster their right-handed relief corps.

The club did not disclose the value of the contract, but a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand the deal is worth $5 million.

The agreement with Johnson, 31, who graduated from Faith Christian Academy in Arvada, Colo., before going to Missouri State and becoming a first-round Draft pick by the Cubs in 2012, addresses a void left when Carlos Estévez departed for a two-year, $13.5 million deal with the Angels.

Johnson appeared in 15 games (5.02 ERA, 21 strikeouts to eight walks in 14 1/3 innings) with the Padres in a 2022 season that saw him out from late April until September because of right elbow tendinitis. But he was fully healthy for the postseason, posting a 0.00 ERA, a .143 batting average against with six strikeouts to zero walks in 4 1/3 innings.

In five Major League seasons with the Cubs (2017), Giants ('18) and Padres ('20-22), Johnson is 10-9 with a 4.05 ERA in 140 appearances. He also made 58 appearances with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan in 2019 (2-3, 1.38 ERA).

Before the injury, Johnson pitched into key roles with the Padres. In 2020 and '21, he was 6-5 with a 3.09 ERA, with 104 strikeouts against 36 walks in 78 2/3 innings.

Since the latter part of the 2022 season, the Rockies have quietly addressed their late-innings relief corps. Johnson is the latest move.

The Rockies secured closer Daniel Bard on a two-year, $19.5 million deal, and days later claimed former Padres righty Dinelson Lamet, who made a full conversion to the bullpen after spending most of his career as a starter. Last month, the Rockies claimed veteran lefty Brent Suter off waivers from the Brewers.

Also, Lucas Gilbreath, who pitched into primary lefty setup duties until sustaining a left elbow injury late in the year, has been given a clean bill of health. The Rockies are planning on a late 2023 boost from Tyler Kinley, who had a 0.75 ERA in 25 games as a primary right-handed setup man before undergoing season-ending right flexor tendon surgery in July.

For support, the Rockies added former D-backs and Mariners righty Matt Koch under a Minor League deal.