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Orioles pitcher Andrew Cashner comments on his trade to the Boston Red Sox, which was made Saturday. (Nathan Ruiz / Baltimore Sun video)

The Orioles began Major League Baseball’s trade season by making their most logical move.

Between games of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles announced they traded right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox for a pair of 17-year-old prospects, outfielder Elio Prado and infielder Noelberth Romero.

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Cashner, 32, was a pending free agent and thus a likely player to be moved with the Orioles holding baseball’s worst record amid the first year of a rebuild.

He joins a Boston team that won last year’s World Series and is contending for a wild-card spot.

“It’s a shocking moment, but I kind of saw it coming just the way our club is trending,” Cashner said. “I think it will maybe sink in tonight and once I leave tomorrow.

“You make a lot of relationships in this game and just saying goodbye to a lot of people is maybe the toughest thing.”

Cashner’s 1.41 ERA since the start of June leads the American League in that span, coming over a period where he increased usage of his changeup and allowed no home runs in 32 innings across five starts.

“Kind of a tough day for us saying goodbye to Cash,” Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said. “He was terrific for us all year, a linchpin in the rotation and the clubhouse.”

The return of Prado and Romero strengthens the Orioles’ international pipeline, one that was lacking before Elias and senior director of international scouting Koby Perez dove into the market this year.

Prado is a center fielder who through Friday was hitting .303/.400/.418 with nine steals in 14 attempts for one of Boston’s Dominican Summer League teams. He’s drawn 20 walks to 21 strikeouts.

“I hear Prado, in particular, is off to a pretty good start in the Dominican Summer League,” Elias said. “Those are complex leagues. The stats can be misleading. A lot can change, but he’s a center fielder with some pop. Runs well. He’s been stealing bases. We’ve had eyes on him, and they like what they see. We’ll see what we get. There’s a lot of development ahead for him.”

Romero, who was hitting .264/.336/.364, has primarily played third base. But Elias said the Orioles believe he can develop as a shortstop who makes “pretty good contact with pop.” Both prospects stand 6 feet and were born in Caracas, Venezuela, with Prado being six days older and 15 pounds heavier, at 160.

“We’ll see what we get,” Elias said. “Obviously, it’ll take several years to find what we’ve got with these guys, 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.

“One of my concerns is that we haven’t been pulling from the international market steadily for the last few years. We’ve started now, but that is a pipeline that is lagging for us. I think trading for that age group is going to help us kind of stave off the balance that we’re going to need with the rest of the league and competitors and equalize it more quickly.”

Cashner was in the last season of a two-year, $16 million contract with the Orioles. The deal included a $10 million club option for 2020 that vested with 340 innings pitched between 2018 and 2019; he needs 90 2/3 more innings to reach that mark. The Red Sox will be his sixth team in a 10-season career.

He started 11 of the Orioles’ 28 victories, receiving at least six runs of support in 11 of his 17 starts. He led the Orioles in innings pitched, consistently providing length for a team that didn’t get it often in front of a tenuous, inexperienced bullpen.

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“He was phenomenal, for me, for the coaching staff, for the players,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "He was the ultimate team guy.

“Wish him the best, except for when we face him.”

That could come soon. Cashner was scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale against the Rays — an outing after which he expected trade chatter to build rather than before — and the Orioles haven’t announced who will pitch in his place. With Boston visiting Camden Yards next weekend, it’s possible one of Cashner’s first starts with the Red Sox comes against the Orioles.

“It’s a huge hole in the rotation,” Elias said. “I think one way of looking at it is it will be more opportunities for young pitchers and fresh arms wherever we find one and it’s one more slot where maybe we will stumble into something that we’ll have beyond this year.

"It’s just one of those tough things we’ll have to do. Our guys will figure out a way to step up. It’s going to, especially in the short term, put a little more pressure on the guys that are here to cover innings.”

Elias said the trade came together in “about a week,” with Boston being the most aggressive among teams pursuing a deal for Cashner. So, although Elias said the Orioles have no other trades currently close to completion, plenty of time remains for one to come together before the July 31 deadline.

Cashner was the lone pending free agent Elias could likely move for a worthwhile return, but outfielder Trey Mancini, right-handed reliever Mychal Givens, right-handed starter Dylan Bundy and infielder Jonathan Villar also represent players that could be attractive to contending teams as the Orioles seek to add more young talent to their organization.

“I don’t know if we’ll make any more deals,” Elias said. “I really don’t. I certainly am not adhering to the framework that they’ve got to be complex-level-age players. If it makes sense and we end up making a trade and a player close to the major leagues comes back — I just don’t know right now. We’ve got nothing else imminent, that’s for sure.”

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