After laying dormant for several months, the Chicago Cubs have not only landed Japanese starting pitcher Shota Imanaga, but they have also completed a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire top prospect Michael Busch.
In return, the Cubs sent 19-year-old pitching prospect Jackson Ferris and 18-year-old outfielder Zyhir Hope. Busch instantly slots in as the Cubs' no. 3 prospect according to MLB and he will likely be an instant impact on the big-league squad. According to The Athletics' Sahadev Sharma, Busch will likely emerge as the team's primary first baseman in Spring Training.
Busch has mostly played third base in his professional career, but Sharma points out that scouting reports put his defense at the hot corner at below average. With capable defenders like Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom on the roster, it would be counterproductive to trade for a defensive liability and start him at third. I'm sure we will see Busch get some time at third given his experience there, but having a clear answer at first base seems like the preferable option.
Below is how the Cubs lineup could shake out with Busch in the mix.
Nico Hoerner 2B
Seiya Suzuki RF
Dansby Swanson SS
Christopher Morel DH
Michael Busch 1B
Ian Happ LF
Yan Gomes/Miguel Amaya C
Nick Madrigal/Patrick Wisdom 3B
Pete Crow-Armstrong CF
Busch is 26 years old and was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round (31st overall) of the 2019 draft. With the Dodgers boasting a slew of all-star caliber position players, Busch's playing time was effectively blocked even though he was ready for the majors last year, prompting the Dodgers to put him on the block. Thankfully for the Cubs, Busch looks like a solid hitter from the left side. In 390 Triple-A at-bats in 2023, Busch slashed .323/.431/.618 with 27 home runs, 90 RBI and 65 walks. His strikeout numbers are a bit high (26% in 2022), but as long as his slug translates to the big leagues, I can live with it.
My initial reaction was that Busch would be the starting third baseman for the Chicago Cubs, but it makes sense to slot him in at first base as long as he can play the position at an average level. It still remains unclear how this move will affect the rest of the offseason. The Cubs reportedly have offered first baseman Rhys Hoskins a contract. If he signs with the team, Hoskins would likely be relegated to DH, putting Christopher Morel's playing time in question. We'll see how the rest of the offseason goes but it is nice to see this team making moves and having too many good bats in the equation is never a bad thing.