Cubs Acquire Michael Busch, Yency Almonte

Anthony Franco


The Dodgers and Cubs announced a trade sending rookie infielder Michael Busch and reliever Yency Almonte from Los Angeles to Chicago for prospects Jackson Ferris and Zyhir Hope. The deal clears a pair of 40-man roster spots for L.A. — one of which will go Teoscar Hernández once his free agent pact is finalized. The Cubs designated catcher Brian Serven for assignment in a corresponding move.

Busch has the more significant value of the players headed to Chicago. Los Angeles selected the UNC product with the 31st overall pick in the 2019 draft. Regarded as a bat-first prospect with questions about his defensive fit, Busch has mostly lived up to that billing during his time in the minors.

Over parts of four seasons, the left-handed hitter owns a .283/.390/.529 line. That includes a robust .293/.385/.544 showing in just under 1000 plate appearances at Triple-A. Busch has connected on 48 home runs and 58 doubles with an excellent 11.8% walk rate at the top minor league level. His 22.5% strikeout rate is closer to league average, but Busch has shown a strong combination of power and patience.

Despite his excellent Triple-A production, the 26-year-old hasn’t gotten much of an MLB opportunity. He didn’t reach the majors until last April. He appeared in 27 games scattered over the course of the season. Through his first 81 plate appearances, he hit only .167/.247/.292 with a pair of home runs. He struck out in a third of his trips.

There’s not much to be gleaned from such a small sample of MLB work. At the same time, that the Dodgers haven’t given Busch extended run is indicative of a few factors. The Dodgers have had strong position player groups in recent years. That’s an impediment to a young hitter, but L.A. had some questions at second base and left field last season. Were Busch regarded as a better defensive player, perhaps he’d have forced his way into the discussion at one or both of those spots.

L.A. has given Busch opportunities at a few positions in the minors. While he has played primarily second base, he’s also gotten work at both corner infield spots and in left field. Prospect evaluators have graded him as a below-average defender at every spot, raising questions about his athleticism and arm strength. Baseball America nevertheless ranked him as the top prospect in the Dodgers system this offseason on the strength of his offensive ceiling.

In some respects, the Cubs will face the same question on Busch as they do on Christopher Morel — where to find at-bats for a promising hitter who hasn’t defended well at any position. That’d most likely come at a corner infield spot or at DH. Morel projects for a starting role at either first base or DH. Some combination of Patrick Wisdom and Nick Madrigal are the top options at the hot corner. The Cubs could still pursue a free agent target at either spot — they’ve been tied to Rhys Hoskins and Matt Chapman this winter — but Busch adds an affordable, high-upside lefty bat to the mix.

Busch still has a pair of minor league option years, so he’s not a lock to open the season on the MLB roster. He’s at least three years from arbitration and won’t be eligible for free agency for at least six seasons. Future minor league assignments could push that back even further.

A secondary part of the return, Almonte steps into the middle relief corps. The 29-year-old righty pitched in 49 games a year ago, working to a 5.06 ERA across 48 innings. He struck hitters out at a solid 23.6% clip but issued free passes to more than 11% of opponents. That continues an up-and-down career for Almonte, who has three seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA and a trio of campaigns allowing more than five earned runs per nine.

Almonte and the Dodgers already agreed to a $1.9MM arbitration salary back in November. The Cubs will take on that near-$2MM sum to add a pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a low-80s sweeper that has generated a strong number of whiffs throughout his career. He’s out of options, so he’ll very likely have a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. The Cubs could control him via arbitration for the 2025 season as well.

To add immediate MLB help, Chicago parts with two promising lower-level players. Ferris, who turns 20 next week, was a second-round pick in the 2022 draft. A 6’4″ left-hander, he signed for a well overslot $3MM bonus as a high school prospect. Ferris made his professional debut last season, turning in a 3.38 ERA over 18 starts for Low-A Myrtle Beach. He punched out nearly a third of his opponents while walking almost 14% of batters faced.

As a young, lanky pitching prospect, it’s not particularly surprising that Ferris has yet to dial in his control. Baseball America praised a 93-95 MPH fastball and a pair of potential above-average or plus breaking balls this offseason, slotting him as the #10 prospect in the Chicago system. He’s a high-upside development play whose future will largely be determined by how well his command develops.

Hope was an overslot signee for $400K in the 11th round last summer. A left-handed hitting outfielder from a Virginia high school, he played in 11 rookie ball games after the draft. In a pre-draft report, BA wrote that Hope was among the fastest players in last year’s class. He’s regarded as a viable fit in center field with a line drive approach, although BA expressed trepidation about his aggressiveness at the dish.

Juan Toribio of first reported the Dodgers were discussing Almonte and Busch in trades with the Cubs. Jon Heyman of the New York Post confirmed an Almonte deal was agreed upon. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported the Dodgers were receiving two players not on the 40-man roster, which Toribio specified included a highly-regarded pitching prospect. Ari Alexander of KPRC 2 was first to report L.A. would receive Ferris and Hope.

Images courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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2024-01-11 19:25:21 , Los Angeles Dodgers – MLB Trade Rumors

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