"That was a tough call for me to make," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "Matt is one of the good guys in the game."
The 29-year-old LeCroy has already consulted with agent Scott Boras and will explore his options in free agency.
"We'll see what's open and who wants me," LeCroy said from his South Carolina home Friday afternoon. "[Boras] seems to think I'll be able to find a job. Hopefully, my bat will get me somewhere else."
LeCroy has spent his entire big league career with the Twins. He was a first-round sandwich pick by the club in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft and was its Opening Day starting catcher in 2000. The organization shuttled him back and forth from Triple-A until 2003, when he became the everyday DH. Injuries limited him to 107 games, but he hit 17 homers and a career-high 64 RBIs.
Over the last two years, LeCroy served as the Twins' third catcher and backup first baseman. The club hesitated using him behind the plate because of his poor throwing arm, and even opened 2005 with a fourth catcher, Corky Miller, as protection for Joe Mauer's iffy left knee. He made $750,000 this season and was eligible for a raise through arbitration this winter.
"I wish we had the ability to put him back there more [at catcher]," Ryan said. "It would have increased his value. We decided to make a decision and go a different route."
"I know everybody [on the team] and grew up with all those guys, but I figured it was going to happen anyway," said LeCroy, a career .263 hitter with 58 homers and 209 RBIs. "I gave it my all for those years. I did everything they asked me to do. Offensively, I did the job.
"We won three division titles. I was a part of it. That was special."
Mays, whose club option was worth $8.5 million, was bought out for $500,000 and will become a free agent. His exit marked the end of a costly four years for the Twins, who signed him to a $20 million contract after he went 17-13 with a 3.16 ERA in an All-Star 2001 season.
After inking that deal, Mays endured numerous elbow problems and went 18-26 with a 5.81 ERA -- an average cost of $1.1 million per victory. He missed all of 2004 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Following a lengthy rehabilitation from the surgery, Mays arrived at Spring Training in 2005 feeling good and optimistic. He earned the fifth spot in the starting rotation and enjoyed a respectable first half, going 5-3 with a 4.13 ERA.
But the right-hander's arm showed signs of fatigue after the All-Star break, as he went 1-7 with an 8.22 ERA. Mays was demoted to the bullpen after his Aug. 24 start, but returned to the rotation to replace an injured Brad Radke for two final starts.
Before the season ended, Mays told the club he would be interested in negotiating a new contract. The Twins haven't entirely closed the door on that option, but it's unlikely the 29-year-old will return.
"I'm going to let him go through the process of filing for free agency and go from there," Ryan said.
Mays was acquired from Seattle as a Minor Leaguer in 1997 for outfielder Roberto Kelly. He broke into the Majors with Minnesota and posted a record of 48-65 with a 4.85 ERA.
Also outrighted and taken off the 40-man roster Friday were outfielder Jason Tyner and third baseman Glenn Williams. Long-time second baseman Luis Rivas was cut earlier this week, along with Michael Ryan and Brent Abernathy.
Williams, 28, batted .425 (17-for-40) with hits in all 13 of his games for the Twins this season. He was placed on the disabled list with a dislocated right shoulder July 1 and did not return. He recently had surgery to repair the injury.
Tyner, also 28, batted .321 (18-for-56) in 18 games as a September call-up. Like Williams, he was signed to a Minor League contract by the Twins last offseason and invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player.
Ryan said the club was interested in bringing back both Williams and Tyner next season with possible invitations to Spring Training.