Jim Leyland said Thursday he has decided to step down as manager of the Florida Marlins, the team he steered to a World Series championship last year before it was dismantled by management in a salary purge.

Leyland had three years and $4.5 million left on his original five-year contract, but exercised an out clause that pays him $500,000 if the team is sold and he informs the organization of his plans to leave before Oct. 11.Leyland, however, made it clear that he hopes to manage a major league team in 1999.

"I want to manage and I would like to manage this season," said Leyland in a teleconference call from his home in Pittsburgh.

"But it's not a necessity. I will not rush into anything. If something is available, I have to make sure it's a match for both sides."

Currently both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies have vacancies in the dugout as both have fired their managers since the season ended.

Leyland led the Marlins to the 1997 World Series championship over the Cleveland Indians but then had to watch as most of the talent on that team was traded away to cut costs.

Florida went just 54-108 this year, the worst season ever by a defending champion.