Yankees GM Brian Cashman, at left with manager Joe Girardi....

Yankees GM Brian Cashman, at left with manager Joe Girardi. (May 22, 2010) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

So Dan Haren will not be a Yankee, having gone to the Angels in what amounted to a glorified money dump for the Diamondbacks, which means that Yankees fans are left with this:

They've become pawns to help American League West teams improve themselves.

First the Mariners used the Yankees' sincere interest in Cliff Lee to get the player they truly wanted, Justin Smoak from Texas. Then Arizona announced the Yankees as a suitor for Haren - when in fact the Yankees served more as browsing shoppers - before sending him to the Angels.

The first instance greatly annoyed the Yankees, to the point that they'll think twice before conducting future business with Seattle. This time, though? The only consequence was a swarm of media interest, but that represents a normal day at the office.

The Haren trade does, however, reinforce the notion that these are not your parents' Yankees. Yes, they still hunt big game, to steal a cliche from general manager Brian Cashman. Yet they don't undergo extensive plastic surgery to address a zit.

Phil Hughes pitched all right yesterday, picking up the win in the Yankees' rain-interrupted 12-6 victory over the Royals at Yankee Stadium. Joba Chamberlain served up a two-run homer to Scott Podsednik in the eighth inning, drawing some critical comments from Joe Girardi after the game.

Alex Rodriguez, in his final attempt at home run No. 600 before hitting the road, scared the daylights out of Yankee Universe when Royals pitcher Blake Wood drilled him in the left wrist. But A-Rod appears to be all right and intends to resume his milestone quest Monday night in Cleveland.

No, life ain't perfect for these Yankees. You know, except for the fact that they own baseball's best record at 62-35. The Rays trail them by only three games. The playoff cushion, however? That would be the eight-game advantage the Yankees have on the Red Sox.

Therefore, you can perhaps understand why the Yankees picked up the phone when Arizona called them a few days ago to discuss Haren. And you also can understand why the Yankees said no thanks to a package of Chamberlain, Ivan Nova, Zach McAllister and another minor-leaguer in addition to taking on the roughly $33 million Haren is owed through 2012.

The Yankees threw some other names at the Diamondbacks in a conversational tone rather than in a formal counterproposal. Suffice it to say, as long as Arizona wanted to dump the money, those names ranked lower on the talent/upside scale than Chamberlain and Nova. The Diamondbacks didn't express interest, and the Yankees and Arizona last spoke Friday.

What now? The Yankees won't even bother engaging on Roy Oswalt, whom Houston might very well retain. So they'll focus on their real needs: bench and bullpen. Former Mets pitcher and Cubs general manager Ed Lynch, now a scout for Toronto, spent the entire weekend watching Royals-Yankees at the Stadium, and Toronto runs the relief market with Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Kevin Gregg. Prices have been high. Maybe they'll drop.

And every time you watch Ramiro Peña start in place of A-Rod, as was the case yesterday, you're reminded that the Yankees could use an upgrade. Maybe the Orioles will trade Ty Wigginton to the hated Yankees. I wouldn't bet on it. The team also likes Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta.

Five days until the deadline, and maybe we'll see some more big names tied to the Yankees. The next big name that actually will join them, however? Bet on Cliff Lee, this December.