It's not often that the Yankees miss out on a player, but after their seemingly all-but-finalized negotiations for Cliff Lee fell through earlier today, Lee is now property of the Texas Rangers. While it's been reported that the Yankees have some hard feelings towards the Mariners over how the M's pulled out of their proposed deal, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that some members of the Yankee front office have put Lee behind them.
The question is, will the Bronx Bombers move on to any other starting pitchers that are on the trade market? Dan Haren, Ted Lilly and Roy Oswalt are among the big-name hurlers who could be wearing different uniforms by July 31, but just because New York didn't acquire Lee doesn't mean that the Yankees are still in the hunt for rotation help.
There is, after all, Javier Vazquez. After a disastrous start to his second go-around with the Yankees, Vazquez seems to have gotten on track; he posted a 3.23 ERA in six June starts and held opponents to a .189 batting average over the month. Had the Yankees picked up Lee, Vazquez either might have been traded, become the most over-qualified long reliever in baseball, or possibly stayed in the rotation had New York made a less-obvious move (like keeping Phil Hughes' innings under control by having Hughes replace the struggling Joba Chamberlain as Mariano Rivera's set-up man).
As ESPN's Jayson Stark observes, Lee has dominated the Yankees in recent years, most notably beating them twice in last year's World Series. If anything, it seems like New York's pursuit of Lee was more about keeping the left-hander away from other teams than it was about adding a needed piece. It's one thing to add a proven ace with an expiring contract like Lee, but quite another to add a starter with an expensive long-term deal (like Oswalt or Haren) or a pitcher like Lilly who isn't a clear enough upgrade over Vazquez to justify trading the prospects that the Cubs would want in return.