Dodgers get pair of high-upside prospects in trade with Cubs

January 11th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- With every big acquisition the Dodgers have made this winter, they knew that it also would come with some difficult decisions regarding their 40-man roster.

Needing to clear at least one 40-man spot for outfielder Teoscar Hernández, the Dodgers and Cubs completed a trade on Thursday, which sent 2019 first-round pick Michael Busch and right-handed reliever Yency Almonte to Chicago, in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect and outfielder Zyhir Hope.

Dodgers receive: LHP Jackson Ferris (Cubs' No. 8 prospect), OF Zyhir Hope
Cubs receive: 3B Michael Busch (Dodgers' No. 2), RHP Yency Almonte

Busch is ranked the No. 44 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline, and had been considered one of the best Minor Leaguers in the Dodgers’ system from the moment he was drafted out of North Carolina.

But as highly touted as Busch has been on the offensive side of the ball, there were equally as many questions regarding his defense. After playing first base in college, Busch was transitioning to second base early in his Minor League career. With Gavin Lux playing the position for a few seasons and Mookie Betts playing more and more infield, there was no path for Busch there.

At first base, the Dodgers have Freddie Freeman for the next four years. In 2023, Busch played more third base, but that position has been occupied by Max Muncy for a few seasons. With no clear spot for Busch to make an impact at the big league level, the Dodgers felt it was time to give him an opportunity for everyday at-bats elsewhere, while also getting a pair of prospects and 40-man roster flexibility.

In 98 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, Busch hit .323 with 27 homers, 26 doubles and 90 RBIs. His .618 slugging percentage ranked fourth among all qualified Minor League batters, while his 1.049 OPS ranked seventh. Busch also showed strong plate discipline, posting an 18.8 percent strikeout rate to go along with a 13.9 percent walk rate. He has a career .919 OPS in the Minors.

As for Almonte, he was also another victim of a roster logjam, with the Dodgers expected to have a lot of healthy relievers heading into Spring Training. Almonte had agreed to a $1.9 million deal to avoid arbitration and was still under team control for another season.

Almonte was a non-roster invitee with the Dodgers in 2022, but he quickly became one of the club’s top relievers, posting a 1.02 ERA over 33 appearances. Last season, however, Almonte dealt with right forearm injuries and was never able to match that level of production. He ultimately missed the last few months of the regular season and wasn’t on the postseason roster.

In Ferris and Hope, the Dodgers are getting two prospects they have been high on for quite a while. Hope’s athleticism was something that jumped out to Dodgers evaluators during the Draft process. There’s a lot of early buzz around him despite his not being a ranked prospect after the Cubs took him in the 11th round of last year's Draft. He’ll have a lot to prove in his first full season of pro ball.

Ferris, whom MLB Pipeline now ranks as the No. 5 prospect in the Dodgers' system, could turn into one of the best pitching prospects in the Minors within a year or two. The 19-year-old made 18 appearances for Single-A Myrtle Beach last season, posting a 2-3 record with a 3.38 ERA. He struck out 77 batters over 56 innings, while allowing just 35 hits. He was drafted in the second round by the Cubs in 2022.

The Dodgers’ 40-man roster now stands at 38, with one of the spots expected to be filled by Hernández, which should become official early next week following a physical.