Orioles general manager Mike Elias pulled the trigger on the first major trade of the season, sending veteran pitcher Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox for a pair of 17-year-old prospects playing in the Dominican Summer League.
The deal likely foreshadows more changes in the coming weeks.
Cashner, 32, was the most obvious trade candidate because his contract expired at the end of the season. Cashner (9-3, 3.83) leads the team in wins and will provide valuable depth for the rotation in Boston, which trails the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.
He is scheduled to start against the Toronto Blue Jays July 16.
The Orioles, meanwhile, have a serious quandary with their starting rotation. In addition to the loss of Cashner, the Orioles placed Dylan Bundy on the 10-day injured list with right knee tendinitis.
Manager Brandon Hyde is scrambling to find answers with the short-handed pitching staff.
"You can't win in this league if you can't pitch," Hyde said. "It's hard to stay competitive if you’re not pitching. It's hard to stay competitive if you’re down a bunch of runs early. So that's been challenging ... to piece together a rotation instead of rolling out five guys and having a guy or two who’s a swing guy or a guy in Triple-A that you call up when necessarily. We've had just a mixed bag of, 'Who can do this now?' So that’s been challenging, especially against the teams we play.
"That's where we are organizationally right now and that’s honest," Hyde added. "We're not in an ideal spot and hopefully these days we’ll look back on and say, 'Wow, how did we do it?' But it's just where we are."
When asked what he’s going to do about finding pitchers this week, Hyde replied with a laugh, "We need a starter ... a few."
The Orioles found one of those starters with Tom Eshelman, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on July 14 and pitched that afternoon against the Rays.
Asher Wojciechowski will start July 16 against the Washington Nationals. Aaron Brooks will likely get the nod as the starter the following day.
Of all the issues facing the Orioles this season, the starting rotation has been the biggest challenge for Hyde.
"I've never had to deal with this rotation stuff that we've had this year, so that's been challenging," Hyde said.
In return for Cashner, the Orioles acquired center fielder Elio Prado and infielder Noelberth Romero. Both have high ceilings and will add further depth to the Orioles farm system.
The Red Sox signed Prado, a native Venezuela, for $85,000 in 2018. He batted .303/.400/.418 with 20 walks and 21 strikeouts in the Dominican Summer League. Prado will report to the DSL Orioles 1.
Romero, also from Venezuela, was acquired by the Red Sox as an international free agent in 2018. He batted .264 on the season with two home runs and 13 runs batted in across 110 at-bats this season in the Domican League. Romero is versatile and played 22 games at third base, five games at second base and two at shortstop. He is assigned to the DSL Orioles 2.
Elias had no problem dealing Cashner within the division. He took the best deal that was on the table.
"We had talks with several teams and Boston was the most serious and most aggressive," Elias said. "We ended up getting two very young players that we like. I think in particular with them being Dominican Summer League players, 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," Elias said. "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."
The Orioles agreed to pay half of the $3.36 million remaining on Cashner’s contract. The Orioles will also pay the $1.5 million remaining on his signing bonus due Jan. 15.
The question now is what other players might headed to other teams.
Rumors will continue to swirl around Trey Mancini, 27, but he has gone just 1-for-22 with six strikeouts over his last six games Mancini is batting .284/.344/.506.
There doesn’t appear to be much of a market for Bundy especially with the latest injury. He was tagged for seven runs in the first inning in his last outing against the Rays.
The most likely scenario is finding a suitor for reliever Mychal Givens, who leads the team with seven saves. He has pitched much and regained his spot as the closer after losing that position in late May following a couple of shaky performances. Givens has converted three of his last four save opportunities and most teams around the major leagues need bullpen help.
Infielders Jonathan Villar and Hanser Alberto also could attract interest, but would not be able to land high-level prospects.
This has been updated.
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