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Colorado native Pierce Johnson traded to Atlanta - 'You're going to see more this week'

Patrick Lyons Avatar
July 25, 2023

For the second time in as many months, the Colorado Rockies have traded one of their impending free agents to acquire some youth that could brighten the future of the organization.

RHP Pierce Johnson was traded on Monday to Atlanta for a pair of pitching prospects, RHP Victor Vodnik and RHP Tanner Gordon.

“I think you’re going to see more of that type of transaction in the next week,” manager Bud Black said ahead of Monday’s 10-6 win in Washington, D.C.

Johnson, born in Denver and a graduate of Faith Christian Academy in Arvada, signed with his childhood team on a one-year deal during the offseason. He served as the closer through the first two months of the season and converted 13 of 15 save opportunities.

Colorado brings back two pitchers that were ranked in Atlanta’s top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. Vodnik (no. 10) and Gordon (no. 26) are both ticketed for the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate in Hartford.

Vodnik was a 14th-round pick in 2018 out of Rialto HS, Calif. and has served as a reliever since the start of 2022. The 23-year-old has gone 3-1 with a 3.10 ERA (40.2 IP, 14 ER) with 25 walks and 56 strikeouts for Double-A Mississippi. He’s finished 15 games during his 30 appearances in the Southern League, recording four saves in the process. 

At 6’0”, he might not appear intimidating until the ball gets on top of a hitter at 95-96 mph, even touching 99 mph when digging deep. His fastball and changeup are considered above average while his control is part of the reason Atlanta did not place him on the 40-man roster last offseason.

Gordon, a 6th-round selection in 2019 out of Indiana University, has been up and down as a starting pitcher in 2023. He holds a 5.86 ERA (86.0 IP, 56 ER) between 17 games at Double-A and Triple-A. Though he doesn’t miss bats, the 25-year-old has been effective with a four-seam fastball that tops out at 95 mph. The Illinois product is 6’5” and should immediately join the Yard Goats starting rotation. 

The 32-year-old Johnson pitched to a 6.00 ERA over his 43 appearances with Colorado, but since being moved out of the ninth-inning role on June 10, his 3.60 ERA (15.0 IP, 6 ER) has come with improved numbers across the board against opposing hitters.

The Rockies don’t have much of a track record of making deals at the trade deadline during their losing seasons over the past two decades. The club were the only of Major League Baseball’s 30 franchises to not make a trade last summer and only RHP Mychal Given was moved during an 87-loss season in 2021. 

Following the trade of Mike Moustakas to the Los Angeles Angels last month, this is the first summer with more than one trade of subtraction — dealing away player(s) set to reach free agency at season’s end — since 2001 when the GM at the time, Dan O’Dowd, traded away the likes of Pedro Astacio, Neifi Pérez, Todd Walker and others.

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