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Monday, August 7
Updated: August 8, 3:22 PM ET
Yankees pick up Canseco in waiver deal

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Torre and Jose Canseco are in agreement: Neither knows what the slugger's role will be with New York.

"I'm stunned," Torre said Monday after New York claimed Canseco on waivers from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "I don't get surprised too often, but I was surprised. Hopefully, he will help us win a game."

Jose Canseco

That wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement.

Canseco, who has been an everyday player -- when healthy -- for his entire career, also was a bit confused.

"I don't know how I'm going to fit in," he said. "I really don't know what they want me to do. I don't know my role yet."

Torre will try to fit Canseco -- who has a feared bat to go with his bad back -- into a crowded left field/DH slot that already includes David Justice, Glenallen Hill, Luis Polonia and Ryan Thompson.

One of those players, possibly Polonia, could be let go to make room for Canseco when he arrives Tuesday. Canseco could also be used off the bench, even though he has only six hits in 35 at-bats as a pinch-hitter.

"My job is to manage the players who are in uniform," Torre said. "I have no opinion of the move. I know what Jose is capable of. There's no question that he's a threat, but this was a surprise."

Torre's assessment of Canseco was in sharp contrast to his reaction to New York's second Monday addition -- backup infielder Luis Sojo, acquired from from Pittsburgh in a trade for minor league pitcher Chris Spurling.

"He was one of our leaders the last few years," Torre said of Sojo, who played four seasons with the Yankees. "I know he'll be pleased coming back and the guys will be happy to see him."

It was unclear if the Yankees actually wanted Canseco or were more interested in blocking Oakland from adding a needed right-handed bat. Canseco was placed on waivers Thursday and Yankees GM Brian Cashman put in a claim, one day before Oakland acquired Mike Stanley.

The only other AL teams the Yankees could block were Chicago and Seattle, which both have entrenched designated hitters. And NL teams likely had no interest.

"We are very aggressive on the way we claim players," Cashman said. "Essentially, we got a player for nothing."

The Yankees, who paid Tampa Bay a $20,000 waiver fee, will be responsible for the remainder of Canseco's $3 million contract this season, about $900,000. The Yankees hold a $4 million club option for next season with a $500,000 buyout.

"I was happy in one sense and depressed in another sense," Canseco said. "I made a lot of great friends here in Tampa, and in that sense I'm sad I'm leaving. I'm getting an opportunity to play for a team in contention right now."

Canseco's addition pushes the Yankees' payroll to about $112.6 million pending a roster move when Canseco reports. Of the 34 players on the active roster or disabled list, 21 make more than $1 million.

"The Tampa Bay Devil Rays got the opportunity to give young players at-bats and save $2 million," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said. "To them, it may not be nothing. To us it's a lot."

The Yankees, who inquired about Canseco before last week's trade deadline, have been busy the past two months, acquiring Justice, Denny Neagle, Jose Vizcaino, Hill and Polonia.

They were three games behind Toronto in the AL East when they got Justice on June 29 from Cleveland. They are 22-13 since and are 3½ games ahead of Boston in the AL East.

"In 1998 and 1999, the team told us that we didn't need to make any moves," Cashman said. "This club told us that we needed to shore up this area and that area. Other teams have closed the gap and we needed to respond."

Canseco, 36, is hitting .257 with nine homers and 30 RBI in 61 games this season. He missed 46 games with a strained left heel. Canseco is 24th on the career list with 440 homers and has long been a favorite of owner George Steinbrenner, who Cashman said was not consulted on the claim.

"We made the decision as an organization when we put Jose out on waivers that if someone claimed him, there was tremendous chance I would let him go," LaMar said. "It makes no difference if that team is the New York Yankees. The decision had already been made both baseball-wise and financially."

Canseco is 24th on the career list with 440 homers and has long been a favorite of owner George Steinbrenner, who Cashman said was not consulted on the claim.

"As an organization, we've always been enamored with this player," Cashman said. "He's one of the game's biggest names. His career has certainly been held back by injuries. Hopefully he has more left in him and his bat can help us down the stretch."

While playing for Oakland, he was a unanimous winner of the 1988 American League MVP award, also becoming the first player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases.

His career dropped off as injuries took their toll. The Yankees and Canseco are convinced health will not be an issue, although it likely will prevent him from playing much in the field.

"The back is 100 percent," Canseco said. "The foot is healing and is about 90 percent."

But the Yankees will use him for his bat, as they try for a third straight World Series title. His career ratio of one every 15 at-bats is fifth among active players and ninth in major league history.

"I know the Yankees have a great history," he said. "What they've done the last four or five years has been incredible. Everyone wants be associated with a winning club. I'm happy to be considered by the Yankees as someone who can help them."

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