As first reported by Juan Toribio, Dodgers beat writer for MLB.com, the Cubs and Dodgers are working on a deal that will send righty reliever Yency Almonte and third baseman Michael Busch, LA’s No. 2 overall prospect, to Chicago. The Almonte portion of the trade has been confirmed by multiple other outlets, then Toribio tweeted that the deal expanded to include Busch.
Per Toribio, a “top Cubs pitching prospect” is expected to go to LA as half of a pair of minor leaguers.
Update: Jeff Passan reported that the Cubs are sending lefty Jackson Ferris, their No. 8 overall prospect, and outfielder Zyhir Hope to the Dodgers.
This is very interesting on the surface because Almonte is out of options and now joins a Cubs bullpen that already features several other pitchers who can’t be sent down. The righty is coming off of a very rough year in which he posted a 5.06 ERA over 48 innings in 49 appearances, continuing a trend that sees him swapping good seasons for bad. That inconsistency is a little easier to swallow when you consider the upside and the fact that he’s only making $1.9 million this season.
Almonte had a 1.02 ERA over 35.1 innings, but he was at 7.55 over 47.2 frames in 2021 for the Rockies. There’s a lot to like about his big sweeper and a sinker that sits 96 mph, so maybe the Cubs see this as a guy whose potential they can fully unlock. Or maybe he’s part of another move that will see them add more certainty while gaining flexibility as well.
Busch is a former first-round pick out of North Carolina who has 60-grade raw power and has hit at least 20 homers in each of his last three minor league seasons. Though the left-handed hitter struggled to a 49 wRC+ in 81 plate appearances with the Dodgers last season, he had a 150 wRC+ with 27 dingers and 90 RBI at Triple-A.
You don’t move a top-10 prospect for a guy you plan to stick in Iowa for depth, so maybe this is how the Cubs plan to address the hot corner moving forward. That would certainly open up the possibilities for additional moves that include one of the 17 other third basemen on the roster. Unless, of course, Busch is the trade bait.
That’s unlikely given the haul and the fact that the Cubs have needs at the corners and in the lefty power department. Busch has actually played a ton of second base in the minors, though he’s kinda blocked there in Chicago. He’s also had very limited time in left, though that spot is likewise filled. First base is a possibility, as Busch has accumulated 167 innings there over the last three years.
Now the question is whether the Cubs seek to clear up some redundancy among their glut of third base/utility guys prior to reporting to Mesa or if they just let things play out in camp. It’ll probably be the latter, as Sahadev Sharma wrote that Busch is expected to enter spring training as the primary first baseman with potential to move around a little. That may remove Rhys Hoskins from the board unless the plan is to use him as a DH with Christopher Morel at third.
Of course, that would eliminate Matt Chapman from consideration and would also limit Cody Bellinger to center, which the Cubs probably don’t want to do. Very interesting stuff here.