This is one in a series of examining potential trade targets for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2023-24 offseason.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been searching for a long-term answer at first base for quite some time.
The hope was that Josh Bell would be the answer. While he showed flashes at times, he was also an inconsistent performer during his time in a black and gold jersey and was ultimately traded to the Washington Nationals prior to the start of the 2021 season.
Since then, the Pirates have filled the position with stop-gap additions such as Carlos Santana in free agency last season, and a revolving door of players who haven’t been able to serve as an anchor.
This offseason, the Pirates have multiple needs, but looking for an answer at first base should be near the top of their wish list. To take it a step further, general manager Ben Cherington should look for a player who could be around for longer than just the 2024 season.
Enter Oakland A’s first baseman Ryan Noda.
Now, it’s possible that the A’s would look to keep Noda, who was a rookie last season and is under club control for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, Oakland still doesn’t appear close to fielding a competitive team, and Noda will turn 28 right after opening day of next year.
Heading into his age-28 season, Noda isn’t an old player, but he certainly was for a rookie and will be on the wrong side of 30 when the A’s project to be a competitive team again after finishing 2023 with a 50-112 record.
Noda performed well for Oakland after he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization last December. In 128 games with the A’s, Noda hit only .229, but registered a .364 on-base clip to go along with 22 doubles, 16 home runs and 54 RBIs.
The left-handed hitter strikes out a lot. He was punched out 170 times in 495 trips to the plate last season. On the other hand, he draws walks in a healthy 15.5% of his plate appearances. Thanks to the high walk rate and some solid power numbers, Noda registered a 123 wRC+ last season, despite the high strikeout numbers.
He’s also not a victim of drastic platoon splits. Though his work against left-handed pitching was limited, Noda compiled a .753 OPS in 97 plate appearances against southpaws. Against righties, he posted a .774 mark in nearly 400 trips to the plate.
On the other side of the ball, the 27-year-old is an adequate defender at first. He was an even-zero when it came to defensive runs saved and compiled a .991 fielding position with seven errors in 782 chances. He also has some experience in the outfield and appeared in nine games in the corner outfield spots for Oakland last season.
With a strong debut season and as much contractual control as he has, the price tag on Noda will likely be fairly high, but that should not deter the Pirates if his services are available.
With no prospect emerging as a legitimate option in the upper levels of the farm system to take over first base in the near future, looking for a long-term answer makes sense for the Pirates.
While there are several free agent options available, a trade should also be explored. Cody Bellinger would prove far too rich for Pittsburgh. Jeimer Candelario’s price could exceed what the Pirates are willing to spend. There’s questions surrounding what comes next for Rhys Hoskins following a lost 2023 after an ACL tear.
Noda provides an inexpensive option for the Pirates in terms of financial status who comes with upside as an on-base machine with legitimate power potential.