One day after officially adding Shōta Imanaga in free agency, the Chicago Cubs stayed active, adding reliever Yency Almonte and infielder Michael Busch from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Cubs sent two prospects, left-hander Jackson Ferris and outfielder Zyhir Hope.
Almonte burst onto the scene in 2022, pitching to a microscopic 1.02 ERA and 0.79 WHIP after four largely unsuccessful seasons with Colorado. Leaning on increased usage and altered shape of his sweeper, Almonte looked like an integral part of the Dodgers' bullpen. However, 2023 was a bit of a step back for Almonte, who pitched to a 5.06 ERA (4.59 FIP), and also struggled with command, posting an 11.1 percent walk rate. His newfound sweeper still showed promise, with a .156 batting average against, accounting for 43 of Almonte's 49 strikeouts. In Chicago's 2024 bullpen, Almonte likely slots in to a higher-leverage role. Almonte still throws hard, and ranked in the 77th percentile of average exit velocity against in 2023.
Busch was a first-round pick by Los Angeles in 2019, signing for over $2 million. The left-handed hitting Busch made his debut in 2023, struggling to a .167/.247/.292 slash line, hitting two home runs. Still, the former North Carolina Tar Heel is a highly-regarded prospect, a former top 100 prospect according to multiple publications. Busch has belted 48 home runs in 209 career Triple-A games. Strong plate discipline and good power numbers are the calling cards for Busch. While he has played a number of positions in his professional career, Busch has not shown an inclination for any particular defensive home. Potentially, Busch could be a supplement to possibly losing Cody Bellinger in free agency.
Ferris was a second rounder out of IMG Academy in the 2022 draft, signing for just over $3 million. The lanky lefty possesses a fastball that reaches 96 mph, as well as three solid-average offspeed pitches. Given his size projection and present athleticism, Ferris comfortably projects to throw enough strikes to reside in a starting rotation for a half decade or so. The Dodgers seem to find a way to coax a higher ceiling out of prospects, so maybe Ferris is a frontline starter in a few years. His first taste of professional baseball in 2023 went well, with a 3.38 ERA across 56.0 innings in 18 starts at Low-A. Ferris struck out 77 batters in his 56.0 innings.
Hope was an 11th-round pick out of a Virginia high school in the 2023 MLB Draft, signing in time for a brief debut at the Complex Level. The left-handed hitting outfielder received a $400,000 bonus to forgo a North Carolina commitment, and hit .283 with three home runs and eight walks across his 11 game cameo. Scouts pointed to Hope's speed, which has been graded as high as 80 on the 20-80 scale, and with some improved bat-to-ball skills, Hope projects as a major league center fielder. Again, this seems like the perfect project for the Los Angeles Dodgers to put through their player development machine.