The Yankees made a valiant effort to acquire Cliff Lee before the Mariners decided they liked the Rangers' offer better, but the general feeling at the time was that Lee was just a luxury for a team that already boasted a strong starting five. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez, and Phil Hughes were already a championship-caliber group without Lee, and they have started all but two of the Yanks' games this season.
Things may have changed this weekend, however. Burnett cut his pitching hand slamming a clubhouse door in frustration on Saturday, and even though he is on track to make his next start, there's no telling how it will affect him. Furthermore, the Yanks have to monitor Hughes' workload down the stretch. The young righty has already thrown 101 innings this year, and it is widely believed that the team will limit him to 170-180 total. The indication is that they will use off days to skip Hughes' turn every so often in the second half.
The biggest issue of all is Pettitte, who left today's start with a Grade I groin strain. GM Brian Cashman said he anticipates a four-to-five week absence, but groin injuries can linger if not addressed properly. Pettitte's spot will be filled by Sergio Mitre for the time being, who is coming off the disabled list himself. Suddenly the rotation went from deep and reliable to having a couple of question marks.
Buster Olney reported that the team had no plans to acquire another starting pitcher following their failed pursuit of Lee, who they considered a "special case." Pettitte's injury may change things. Former Yankee Ted Lilly seems like a logical fit since he has history with the team and is very much available. His reduced velocity could be a cause for concern, and also the fact that he hasn't pitched in the AL regularly for quite some time. Brett Myers and another former Yankee in Jake Westbrook could be options as well.
Of course, whenever you talk about the Yankees, you have to mention the big names. Roy Oswalt appears to be fine after leaving today's start with an ankle injury, but he would require a significant payroll increase. Dan Haren is also out on the market. The Yanks have indicated that they would not trade top prospect Jesus Montero for anyone currently on the trade market, which would limit their ability to acquire a big-time piece.
When the Yankees needed a starter down the stretch last year, Cashman made a small waiver trade for Chad Gaudin, who pitched well for them in August and September (3.19 ERA in six starts).Brian Bannister, whom the Yanks inquired about last year, and David Bush could still be available this August.
The Yankees have a deeper rotation than last year even with Pettitte's injury, so they might not rush out to make a deal before the non-waiver trade deadline on the 31st. If nothing else, Cashman has shown a willingness to be patient, giving internal options a chance before making a major trade.