The Braves signed reliever Pierce Johnson to a two-year, $14.25MM extension, the club announced. Johnson is set for consecutive $7MM salaries between 2024-25 and is guaranteed a $250K buyout on a $7MM team option for 2026.
Johnson, 32, first joined the Braves in a deadline deal that sent minor league pitchers Victor Vodnik and Tanner Gordon to the Rockies. It wasn’t an especially high-profile move at the time. The right-hander owned a 6.00 ERA over 38 innings after signing a $5MM free agent deal with Colorado. Johnson had punched out a quality 30.9% of opponents with the Rox, so he wasn’t without upside, but few would’ve anticipated how resoundingly he’d turn his season around.
The Missouri State product tossed 23 2/3 regular season innings for Atlanta, allowing 0.76 earned runs per nine. His strikeout rate jumped more than five percentage points, as he fanned 36% of batters faced. His swinging strike rate jumped from a solid 12.3% to an elite 17.8% mark. He added five points to an already impressive strikeout rate, more than halved his walks, and doubled his ground-ball percentage relative to his time in Colorado. Johnson pitched his way into high-leverage work and added three scoreless appearances in the Division Series.
Leaving Coors Field offers a partial explanation for the improved results, but it’s certainly not the entire story for an improvement this dramatic. Johnson has always had promising raw stuff, pairing a 96 MPH fastball with a mid-80s power curve. Upon landing in Atlanta, he dramatically upped the use of the breaking ball. Johnson turned to the hook nearly three quarters of the time as a Brave after deploying it in a near-even division with the fastball while in Denver. Given the results, it’s hard to find fault with that plan of attack.
More to come.