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Tino Martinez a free agent after Yanks decline option

NEW YORK -- The Yankees let Tino Martinez go Tuesday,
declining their $3 million option on the popular first baseman.

Martinez returned to New York this year and hit .241 in
part-time duty with 17 home runs and 49 RBI. He was a staple in
the Yankees' lineup from 1996-01, helping the team to four World
Series championships and five AL pennants with his clutch hitting
and reliable defense.

Always a fan favorite at Yankee Stadium, he was brought back to
provide insurance at first base for slugger Jason Giambi, who was
coming off a 2004 season wrecked by illness and injury. And
Martinez did his job, going on an early home run tear while Giambi
was still struggling, a big reason the Yankees were able to recover
from an 11-19 start to win their eighth consecutive AL East title.

But Giambi, now healthy, found his stroke as the summer wore on,
pushing Martinez to the bench most games. Often used as a defensive
replacement, the two-time All-Star finished with 303 at-bats in 131
games.

"At this stage, I'm trying to reduce payroll," Yankees general
manager Brian Cashman said at the GM meetings in Indian Wells,
Calif. "We have a young player who's knocking on the door, Andy
Phillips, who's a right-handed bat and provides flexibility to Joe
Torre. We're gravitating toward that concept. We're not locked into
it, but that's the current direction."

Martinez, who will turn 38 next month, went 0-for-8 in the first
round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Angels, and the
Yankees were eliminated in five games. He hasn't decided if he
wants to retire or return for another season in the big leagues.

"As far as my future goes, I have no idea," Martinez told
MLB.com. "We'll see what happens. I haven't ruled anything out
either way."

Martinez is a .271 career hitter with 339 homers and 1,271 RBI
in 16 major league seasons. He gets a $250,000 buyout and becomes a
free agent. His salary was $2.75 million last season.