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Orioles’ Andrew Cashner trade gives a better idea of what’s on horizon for Mike Elias’ rebuilding project

Orioles’ Andrew Cashner trade gives a better idea of what’s on horizon for Mike Elias’ rebuilding project
Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias at spring training.

There is no firm timetable for the completion of the Orioles’ rebuild, but the deal that sent veteran pitcher Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox for a pair of 17-year-old Venezuelan prospects hints at a far-off horizon.

The immediate effect is another boost to executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ oft-stated intent to build a broad base of international talent, which began in earnest when he announced the signing of 27 players July 2.

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The front office also is still living in the heady aftermath of the Orioles’ amateur draft and the quick signing of No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman, a highly advanced college player who could be ready for the major leagues in two or three years.

If center fielder Elio Prado and infielder Noelberth Romero develop into strong prospects — which is far from guaranteed — they would be at least a couple of years deeper in the newly replenished minor league system.

“Obviously, it’ll take several years to find what we’ve got with these guys,” Elias said, "but I do feel like that age group and that pipeline is something we want to bolster and give a jolt to and this helps with that.”

It was a decisive move, coming 18 days before the July 31 trade deadline. Elias could have waited to see where the market for a solid starting pitcher was headed, but he correctly pointed out that teams have become increasingly reluctant to deal quality upper-level minor league talent to rent a player for less than half a season.

“I just felt like we got a return that made sense, that was above the line, and were able to get some young players with upside as opposed to getting players that were older or already on the 40-man roster,'' he said. “Those are the type of offers you get. This is a tough trade market for getting young players. There’s a lot more risk with these types of players, but there’s more upside as well.”

There still is plenty of time to move other veteran players, but Elias said nothing is imminent and cast some doubt about the likelihood of a string of deals heading into the deadline.

The immediate impact of the Cashner deal on the current Orioles roster figures to be dramatic. He was the only veteran left in an Orioles rotation that lost Alex Cobb to a season-ending injury and just placed Dylan Bundy on the injured list. So, manager Brandon Hyde will have plenty of opportunities to be creative with his pitching staff during the final 11 weeks of the season.

Elias, who said the trade talks with the Red Sox had been going on for about a week, has been stocking up on surplus pitching over the past month. He acquired right-hander Tom Eshelman from the Philadelphia Phillies for international bonus slots in early June, purchased the contract of Asher Wojciechowski from the Cleveland Indians on July 1 and claimed right-hander Aaron Brooks off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on July 6.

Though none of those acquisitions were directly connected to the likelihood of filling any future holes in the rotation, all three of the newly acquired pitchers have made a start over the past nine games.

So, it appears the Orioles have entered into a new phase in this first season of the rebuilding program, one in which fans might have to accept an even lower level of on-field success.

Elias doesn’t look at it that way. He acknowledged the likely impact of the deal on this year’s club, but chose to cast it as an opportunity to give more of the young pitchers in the organization innings at the major league level.

That’s really what this year is supposed to be about, so fans are cautioned to keep their eyes on the prize, even if they might need binoculars to see it.

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