May 24, 2024

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is set to showcase his talents with the Toronto Blue Jays, a direct competitor of his former team, the New York Yankees, over the next two years. Despite spending only two seasons in New York, the Hawaiian native and lifelong Yankees fan proved to be a valuable and versatile player, according to WFAN host Brandon Tierney. Tierney expressed that Kiner-Falefa faced unjust criticism for what he lacked, emphasizing that with a better roster, he could have been appreciated for his versatility, team-first mentality, and ability to put the ball in play.

During his Yankees stint spanning 255 games, Kiner-Falefa posted a .253 average, .643 OPS (81 OPS+), 10 home runs, 85 RBI, and 36 steals in 809 at-bats. While he may not be considered a power hitter with his career 81 OPS+ over six seasons, Kiner-Falefa’s defensive flexibility (having played six positions in the previous season) and contact skills (19.4% strikeout rate) add significant value to his game.

Yankees re-sign Isiah Kiner-Falefa for 2023, avoiding arbitration -  Pinstripe Alley

Expressing a desire to return to the Yankees and citing “unfinished business,” Kiner-Falefa ultimately joined the Blue Jays, who demonstrated a greater interest, possibly utilizing him frequently at third base with Matt Chapman’s free agency status. Kiner-Falefa acknowledged the pressure from Yankees fans and how it fueled his growth, stating that the fans in New York bring out the best in a player.

The Yankees acquired Kiner-Falefa, along with Josh Donaldson and Ben Rortvedt, from the Minnesota Twins in March 2022 in exchange for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela. Tierney’s perspective implies that Kiner-Falefa became a scapegoat for the Yankees’ struggles, emphasizing that the team’s issues were rooted in a flawed roster constructed by general manager Brian Cashman, who now needs to find a new utility player.

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