NEW YORK (AP) _ It took less than 40 games for the New York Yankees to give up on Darryl Strawberry.

The team said Thursday it is declining to exercise a $1.8 million option for the 1996 season, and instead would pay a $175,000 buyout.

Strawberry, who will be 34 next season, joined the Yankees on Aug. 4 after completing a 60-day suspension caused by a positive test for cocaine use.

He hit .276 for the Yankees, going 24-for-87 in 32 games with three homers and 13 RBIs. He struck out 22 times and had 10 walks.

The Yankees, who paid Strawberry $750,000 in 1995, originally had to decide on the option by Nov. 1. At the team's request, Strawberry agreed to push back the deadline to Dec. 2.

Strawberry, who is playing for Santurce in the Puerto Rican winter league, said he'll have to wait and see what the future holds.

``I'm an every-day player. I always have been,'' Strawberry said Thursday night after going 0-for-4 in Santurce's 11-9 loss to Arecibo. ``I want to play every day. That is my goal.

``I think I've proved myself down here. I'm doing well here and having fun.''

Strawberry leads the league with six homers and is batting .367 (11-for-30) in nine games. He has 10 RBIs.

General manager Bob Watson did not return telephone calls, Yankees spokesman Rob Butcher said.

Apparently, Watson and new manager Joe Torre didn't want Strawberry on their team next season. The outfielder must now search for a new team and isn't likely to get a $1.8 million salary for next year.

Strawberry hasn't played a complete season since 1990, his last year with the New York Mets. He then signed a $20.25 million, five-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but spent parts of the 1991, '92 and '93 seasons on the disabled list.

He was released by the Dodgers on May 25, 1994, about three weeks after completing a 28-day stay at the Betty Ford Center for a substance abuse problem. He joined the San Francisco Giants that July 6 and hit .239 in 29 games, with four homers and 17 RBIs.

On April 24, Strawberry was ordered to repay $350,000 in back taxes and was sentenced to six months of home confinement by a U.S. District Judge in White Plains, N.Y. The sentence allowed him to play baseball and to travel for road games.

There were no apparent development, meanwhile, in the Yankees' pursuit of free agents. Barry Axelrod, the agent for second baseman Craig Biggio and first baseman Mark Grace, said at the earliest he was several days away from making deals.

``There are two factors,'' Axelrod said. ``One is there's a logjam somewhere. I think it's over there in New York, with a lot of people hinging on something. And I think a lot of people are still looking at the Dec. 7 date. They don't want to lose draft picks.''

If a player's former club doesn't offer salary arbitration by Dec. 7, it loses draft-pick compensation if he signs with a new team.

Axelrod also was referring to the Yankees' interest in his clients and in second baseman Roberto Alomar and first baseman Fred McGriff. In addition, New York also is interested in obtaining first baseman Tino Martinez from Seattle.

New York's only deal that apparently is close is re-signing third baseman Wade Boggs.