Padres sign righty Vargas after claiming Pinto

Prospects Margot, Rondon added to 40-man roster prior to Rule 5 Draft

Padres sign righty Vargas after claiming Pinto

SAN DIEGO -- A week after dealing away two of their top relief pitchers in Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel, the Padres made a move on Friday that could very well bolster the back end of the bullpen in 2016.

San Diego announced the signing of right-handed reliever Cesar Vargas to a Major League deal for 2016, giving the club another potential option late in games.

Vargas, who turns 24 on Dec. 30, is a native of Puebla, Mexico. He has a 3.12 ERA over 173 career Minor League appearances with an 8.5 K/9 ratio and with a reputation as a strike-thrower in the Yankees' system.

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Vargas was a combined 6-0 with a 3.08 ERA in 46 games in two Minor League stops in the Yankees' system in 2015, topping out at Triple-A. He struck out 76 in 73 innings.

He had pitched well recently for Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific Winter League, posting a 2.30 ERA in 17 games with 21 strikeouts and just three walks in 15 2/3 innings.

Vargas' best pitch is his cutter, which plays well to both right-handed and left-handed hitters.

The addition of Vargas was just one of several moves the Padres made in advance of setting their 40-man roster prior to the Winter Meetings next month.

San Diego also claimed 26-year-old catcher Josmil Pinto from the Twins. Pinto is a bat-first catcher with a career .257 average, 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in two stints with Minnesota (2013-14). He has a strong arm, but that hasn't equated to success in the big leagues, as he's thrown out only five of 26 attempted basestealers.

Pinto's solo homer

But Pinto, a right-handed hitter, profiles well offensively. He has a career Minor League slash line of .271/.348/.434 with 78 home runs in 720 games.

But the question is this: What do the Padres do with Pinto, who is out of Minor League options?

The Padres already have Derek Norris and Austin Hedges as a tandem behind the plate. Could the club move one of those players? Move Pinto to an American League team where he might be a better fit or possibly move Norris to first base, where he played 17 games in 2015?

Norris is coming off his best big league season defensively, where he posted a plus-six for defensive runs saved, threw out a Major League-high 44 attempted basestealers and caught 69.8 extra strikes (in 7,432 framing chances), good for the 10th-most in the Major Leagues.

The Padres liked what they saw from Hedges in his first stint in the big leagues -- especially on the defensive side. He hit .168, but threw out 16 attempted basestealers and had a plus-six defensive runs saved.

Pinto has played some first base (16 games) in his Minor League career, but 14 of those games came in 2006 when he was 17 years old.

The Padres also purchased the contracts of two players on Friday, adding them to the 40-man roster. The club added outfielder Manuel Margot, the top prospect in their farm system, according to He was acquired last week from the Red Sox in the Kimbrel deal.

Callis on Padres' new prospects

The team also added shortstop and No. 5 prospect Jose Rondon to the 40-man roster. He hit .267 over 85 games in stops with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. He had surgery in July to repair a fractured elbow.

San Diego currently has 39 players on its 40-man roster.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.