SAN DIEGO -- The Padres claimed 27-year-old right-hander Jake Esch off waivers from the Marlins on Friday, and in a surprise corresponding move, designated righty Cesar Vargas for assignment.Esch debuted last season and made three big league starts, posting a 5.54 ERA. He owns a 4.02 ERA and a 1.32
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres claimed 27-year-old right-hander Jake Esch off waivers from the Marlins on Friday, and in a surprise corresponding move, designated righty Cesar Vargas for assignment.
Esch debuted last season and made three big league starts, posting a 5.54 ERA. He owns a 4.02 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in six Minor League seasons. A former 11th-round Draft pick by Miami, Esch averaged 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings in the Minors but limited opponents to 34 homers in 582 innings.
"He's a starting candidate somewhere down the line," manager Andy Green said. "He's an optionable starter, who has a feel to pitch. … He's going to be a depth guy for us, and there's potential at some point in time he shows up here and affects us at the Major League level."
Vargas flashed his potential during an impressive first month in the Majors last year. He became the second Padres pitcher in history to begin his career with three consecutive starts in which he allowed one run or fewer.
The 25-year-old right-hander posted a 3.34 ERA in his first six starts, before a fateful May 28 outing in Arizona. He didn't make it out of the second inning, while allowing seven runs, and was later diagnosed with a flexor strain in his pitching elbow.
Vargas missed the remainder of the season, but fully recovered during the offseason, and was thought to be in contention for one of San Diego's rotation spots. But he was optioned to the Minors on March 6, and now must clear waivers to remain with the organization.
"He showed flashes last year, but his velo has yet to return," Green said. "He's been pitching in the 84-86 [mph] range. I don't think his stuff has come back at this point in time. Those are hard decisions. If the stuff returns at some point in time, we think Cesar Vargas could be an option for us in the future."
Esch will likely be a depth starting pitching option for the Padres in the Minor Leagues. San Diego's season-opening rotation is set and it's unlikely the Esch goes to the bullpen, as he hasn't pitched in a regular relief role since 2012 when he was in low Class A.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.