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Vernon Wells designated for assignment by Yankees

Vernon Wells reacts to a strike against the

Vernon Wells reacts to a strike against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game two of a doubleheader. (June 19, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Yankees designated veteran outfielder Vernon Wells for assignment on Friday to make room on the 40-man roster for lefthanded reliever Matt Thornton.

Wells, 35, had no role on the club once the Yankees signed free-agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Wells took the news well, which was consistent with the classiness he showed during his only season in pinstripes.

"Thank you @Yankees for the opportunity to be part of such a storied franchise. #Blessed #NextChapter," Wells wrote on his verified Twitter account.

The Yankees acquired Wells from the Angels last March 26 for a pair of minor-leaguers. After a terrific start to the season -- 10 home runs in April and May -- Wells fell out of the lineup because of a prolonged slump and the acquisition of Alfonso Soriano. Wells finished with a .233 batting average, 11 home runs and 50 RBIs.

Because of the complex financial arrangement the Yankees made with Anaheim, the bulk of Wells' $21-million salary will not be paid by the Yankees. His salary will not count at all against their payroll for luxury- tax purposes this season.

The Yankees also might be looking to jettison Ichiro Suzuki, but that might not be as easy. He is owed $6.5 million for 2014, which is a bit pricey for a fifth outfielder. But if the Yankees trade Brett Gardner for pitching, Ichiro could stay as the fourth outfielder behind Soriano, Ellsbury and Beltran.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did not return a call seeking comment.

The Yankees' remaining offseason agenda depends on two wild cards: the free-agent sweepstakes for Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka and the upcoming decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz in the Alex Rodriguez suspension case.

The decision in the Rodriguez case is expected at any time. He is appealing a 211-game suspension levied by Major League Baseball for his alleged involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

The decision in the Tanaka sweepstakes must come by Jan. 24. If he does not sign with an MLB club by then, his rights will return to his Japanese team.

Up to a dozen teams are said to be interested in Tanaka, 25, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013. The Yankees are one of them.

Tanaka and agent Casey Close have been meeting with interested teams in Los Angeles this week. The parties have agreed to keep the details of those meetings secret for now. What is no secret is that Tanaka likely will command a contract in the $100-million range in addition to the $20-million posting fee.

The Yankees want Tanaka, but so do other big-market clubs such as the Dodgers, Cubs and White Sox. The Diamondbacks are believed to be a dark-horse candidate. The Mariners, who already have committed $240 million to Robinson Cano and have Japanese ownership, also could make a pitch.

Thornton, 37, went 0-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 60 appearances with the White Sox and Red Sox last season. He agreed to a two-year, $7-million deal last month and replaces Boone Logan, who signed with the Colorado Rockies for three years and $16.5 million.

The Yankees also need a roster spot for free-agent signee Brian Roberts, the oft-injured former Baltimore Orioles second baseman. Roberts' one-year, $2-million deal has not been announced.

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