Yankees' deals all smoke and mirrors

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NEW YORK -- On a thunderclap-filled trade deadline day when their American League rivals, Boston and Tampa Bay, faced reality and gave up on this season with a series of bold moves, and the World Series-or-Bust Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers began a top this/take that! arms race that could decide the postseason, the Yankees wound up looking like a team that badly needs an infusion of fresh thinking, not just fresh talent, after their cap-gun moves.

The Yanks were neither big-game buyers nor break-the-mold sellers Thursday.

They could neither bring themselves to give up on the playoff race like Tampa -- a hotter team -- did, nor could they swallow hard and show the daring vision that Boston, which won the World Series just a half season ago, did by unsentimentally trading ace Jon Lester and John Lackey, two anchors of their starting rotation, as well as Jonny Gomes and reliever Andrew Miller. And the Red Sox did that though they play before a fan base every bit as impatient as the Yankees' followers.

The Yankees were also not in on the big surprise that AL West leader Oakland sprang by trading their cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, for Lester -- only to see Detroit answer by prying former Cy Young Award winner David Price away from Tampa in a three-team deal in which the Tigers sent starting center-fielder Austin Jackson to Seattle.

It was extraordinary to watch. Next to all that, the two late-developing moves that Yanks general manager Brian Cashman made with less than an hour to go before the 4 p.m. deadline were underwhelming.

Worse, each Yanks move was necessitated by the domino effects of a constellation of other bad choices -- namely, the Yanks' same old pattern of signing aging vets to go with the long-term contracts they're already locked into, and then regretting it when said older vets break down or underperform, as so many on this year's roster have. Expect more bench time for Ichiro Suzuki and Carlos Beltran, who will still DH most days but isn't likely to play outfield until his elbow improves. Alfonso Soriano was released weeks ago.

What Cashman's deals essentially told manager Joe Girardi is he'll have to keep trying to win with smoke and mirrors 'til further notice.

Cashman sent disappointing Kelly Johnson to Boston for shortstop Stephen Drew, a free agent the Yankees and everyone else could've signed well past this season's start, but didn't.

He also sent minor league infielder Peter O'Brien and cash to Arizona for Martin Prado, who is hitting .270 with 42 RBIs in 106 games this season. The two of them will join Chase Headley and pitcher Brandon McCarthy, whom Cashman also obtained in recent days.

But look: After watching the Red Sox's ability to pull in a talent like Cespedes for Lester, it was hard not to feel dissatisfied with a lot of things about the Yankees kingdom. Starting with how the Yanks are still haunted by their inability to swallow hard and trade Robinson Cano in the 2013 offseason or at last year's trading deadline for proven talent or hotshot prospects if they had no intention on paying him what the open market could bring. Which they didn't.

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