Why relievers Pierce Johnson and Joe Jiménez chose Braves over testing free agency

Justin Toscano, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

NORTH PORT, Fla. — After last season, Pierce Johnson and Joe Jiménez could have tested free agency. They earned that right and could have gauged their value on the open market.

Instead, both re-signed with the Braves before they made it to free agency – Johnson on Oct. 25, Jiménez on Nov. 2. (Technically, Jiménez would’ve become a free agent Nov. 2, the day after the World Series, but that is the day the team announced his deal.) Both relievers wanted to stay with the Braves.

Before the offseason, Jiménez talked to Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos and made his preference known.

“Hey, I would love to stay here,” Jiménez remembers saying.

And around the same time, Jiménez communicated with his representation that he would love to stay in Atlanta. If Anthopoulos wanted to discuss re-signing Jiménez, the reliever told his agent, then Jiménez would be open to it.

Johnson, on the other hand, had no idea what free agency had in store. After a roller-coaster season in which the Rockies traded him to the Braves, he didn’t have a conversation with his agent. They figured they would stand still, hit free agency and see if the Braves called. When they did, Johnson was elated.


“We talked about it, but ultimately, this was a place that I wanted to be and to stay,” Johnson said. “And even before I came here, this was a place that, from the outside looking in, I always wanted to come to. And this is a team built to win – not just win now, but built to win for a while.”

The Braves signed Johnson to a two-year contract worth a guaranteed $14.25 million. They gave Jiménez a three-year, $26 million deal.

Why are the Braves so special to both men?

“I mean, what isn’t special here?” Johnson said. “I mean, let’s be honest. You got a team that’s ready to win and built to win for a long time. I’m at the point in my career that I don’t know how many years I got left. I’m gonna play as long as I can, right? But I wanna win. This is obviously a team that’s built to win, No. 1. No. 2, the locker room here is incredible. Amazing guys, top to bottom. Coaching staff, facilities. It’s just such a fun group to be around, and I’ve truly enjoyed myself from day one getting here. And it’s also a team that really wanted me at the All-Star break, right? I hadn’t really thrown the greatest, and I felt valued, and when a player feels valued, I feel like you get the most out of it. That was something for me is I felt valued, and they called before I could even test free agency, and that meant a lot to me.”


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