NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees have begun a belated pursuit of Danny Tartabull, the most attractive free agent still available.
Their attempt to sign Tartabull, which began with a trip to Los Angeles by general manager Gene Michael on Saturday, is the first step in a plan that includes several potential trades, including one that would send an outfielder to the Montreal Expos for third baseman Tim Wallach.
The sudden change in philosophy comes as Daniel McCarthy replaces Robert Nederlander as the Yankees managing partner and as George Steinbrenner maneuvers to return to that position.
Steinbrenner's personal plan could take off in earnest in the next few days with the expected withdrawal -- although it has been expected for the last two weeks -- of two lawsuits that block his way to a meeting with commissioner Fay Vincent.
Michael, who has taken the brunt of the ridicule heaped on the Yankees for their inactivity this off-season, and Joseph Molloy, a club vice president and Steinbrenner's son-in-law, met in Los Angeles on Saturday with Tartabull and his agent, Dennis Gilbert.
Tartabull told a friend afterward that the Yankees officials said they wanted to sign him, among other reasons, because of the impact the New York Mets have made with their series of dramatic off-season moves -- including acquiring Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen.
Michael did not return telephone calls yesterday seeking comment on the meeting. Gilbert's wife said he was tied up in meetings and was unavailable.
Gilbert and Tartabull obviously welcome the Yankees' entry into what has been a slow-paced market for the slugging outfielder. The Yankees' participation in negotiations for free agents always has resulted in a more lucrative contract, wherever the player has signed.
But the Yankees' entry doesn't mean they will sign him. Tartabull has been talking with the Texas Rangers and is scheduled to meet with them in Arlington, Texas, today. The California Angels, as desperate as the Yankees for hitting help, also want Tartabull, and Whitey Herzog, the California general manager, is scheduled to meet with Gilbert tomorrow.