Seattle Lou Piniella won't be back with the Seattle Mariners next season.
The Mariners agreed Monday to release Piniella from the final year of his contract, allowing him to leave Seattle after a 10-year span during which he elevated the team to baseball's upper tier.
Mariners chief executive Howard Lincoln said the team will allow other clubs to interview him, provided that "adequate compensation" can be arranged. Both the New York Mets and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays may be interested in Piniella, a former manager and GM of the New York Yankees.
Lincoln declined to elaborate on what compensation the Mariners would seek, but it probably would be money or players.
At least one suitor already is waiting. Lincoln said he planned to return a telephone call to Mets owner Fred Wilpon after speaking with Seattle reporters.
Piniella met with Lincoln, general manager Pat Gillick and team president Armstrong on Friday. He told them that "for personal and family reasons," he had decided not to return to Seattle for the 2003 season.
The final year of Piniella's $6.8 million contract is worth $2.5 million.
The Mets or Tampa Bay Devil Rays are mentioned as the most likely candidates to lure the 59-year-old Piniella, who lives in the Tampa Bay area during the offseason. His parents and grandchildren also live there.