It won't take 3 years to find out if they sign a competent MLB player for the middle infield in 2020. That's all they need to do. Villar versus say Jose Iglesias (if he wasn't apparently an asshole) really is of no consequence.
This trade or non-tendering Villar is the exact same if they don't replace him with someone passable and instead roll with this year's version of Richie Martin. That would be inexcusable even if the guy they got for Villar was some top-10 prospect. Just as trading Mancini is completely fine as long as they get a decent enough return and if they don't have any glaringly unacceptable options playing everyday in 2020 at one of the spots Mancini could have filled (1B/COF/DH).
They got an acceptable return for Villar, IMO, even though it's not much. He didn't have much value. So they've met one of the criteria. Remains to be seen if they will sign or otherwise acquire an everyday middle infield option that isn't putrid. That's the second half thing that needs to be met, and if it's not, then this trade of Villar should be viewed just as harshly as non-tendering him with no replacement.
I do not agree that Villar had no value. I do not know a thing about Easton Lucas, so I am not going to act as if I do, but given that he is in low A, it seems like at best, he is 3 years away.
As far as who we sign, if you read Elias comments, it seems like he is saying we will be in the market for minor league free agents.
FWIW, I think Elias will eventually get it turned around, but I am never going to be in favor of a team tanking a season(s). I know, the Orioles team is not tanking, but the front office has made it known in its actions, that wins do not matter. I do not find 50 wins a year acceptable, and the only way I can show that is to not spend on a minor league product.