In their first major player move in more than a year, the New York Yankees made a surprise late offer to Danny Tartabull, and the free-agent outfielder agreed yesterday to a $25.5 million, five-year contract.
The deal, which makes Tartabull the fifth-highest-paid player in baseball, came six days after Daniel McCarthy replaced Robert Nederlander as the team's managing general partner. Tartabull became the first major addition to the Yankees' roster since pitcher Mike Witt signed as a free agent on Jan. 2, 1991.
"It's exciting to me, a challenge," Tartabull said. "I'm tickled about the way things worked out. I want to be part of the leadership of the club and bring a championship back to New York."
The California Angels, Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox had been bidding for Tartabull, who hit .316 last season with 31 homers and 100 RBI. The Yankees, who finished fifth last season at 71-91, first expressed interest Thursday, and New York general manager Gene Michael spent the weekend in Los Angeles negotiating with Tartabull's agent, Dennis Gilbert.
"After I got the call, I contacted Danny and we talked a little about the Yankees and whether he wanted to play in New York," Gilbert said. "The idea excited him."
The move give the Yankees a surplus of outfielders and means that Jesse Barfield or Mel Hall probably will be traded. New York still is searching for a third baseman.
"We have some more things we're working on," Michael said. "We've anchored an outfield spot. We have more versatility, more flexibility.
"We talked about what it would take to get him. They gave me some areas. We got it done in a hurry. We pressured them a bit. I stayed at it for four solid days."
The deal was for about $1 million a year more than other teams were offering before New York became involved.
McCarthy said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who is barred from the team's day-to-day business, had been consulted on the tax implications of the Tartabull signing, "not on the choice of whether to go ahead with the deal."
Commissioner Fay Vincent said that Steinbrenner's consultation probably was not allowed under the agreement the Yankees owner signed on July 30, 1990.
"I don't think so," Vincent said. "But I'm not sure McCarthy understands what is in the agreements. What I think I want to do is talk with McCarthy in the next few weeks. It's never been explained to him."
Michael said he pursued Tartabull as soon as the Yankees partners gave him permission to make a deal.
"They told me to go ahead and I did," he said. "I like spending money. Danny was one of the players we wanted to get."
* PIRATES: General manager Larry Doughty, who helped lead the team to two National League East championships, was fired.
The Pirates said in a written statement that Doughty has been "relieved of his duties" as the team's senior vice president and general manager of baseball operations.
Pirates spokesman Jim Lachima declined to say why Doughty was fired.
* RED SOX: A judge has dismissed a charge against pitcher Roger Clemens, who was found innocent last month of another charge stemming from an alleged barroom brawl with an off-duty police officer.
The Class B misdemeanor charge of interfering with a public servant was dropped Friday in Houston by Harris County-Court-at-Law James Barkley, said George Tyson, a lawyer for Clemens.
Prosecutors had filed the motion to dismiss the charge, which stemmed from the same incident, Tyson said yesterday.
Details of the $25.5 million, 5-year contract agreed to between OF Danny Tartabull and the Yankees:
Guaranteed money * Signing: $1.5 million
1992: $5 million
* 1993: $4.75 million
* 1994: $4.25 million
* 1995: $5 million
* 1996: $5 million
Incentive bonus clauses * MVP: $150,000
All-Star Game: $50,000
* Playoffs MVP: $50,000
* World Series MVP: $50,000