The Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch is amongst those fairly certain the Yankees will be making a run at newly available Roger Clemens.

The Boss can – and will – court The Rocket with money (anything you want, Rocket), by playing on his vanity (we’ve never really replaced you, Rocket), and his legacy (can the Astros really take you back to the World Series?). All this unfolded Wednesday night, when Houston owner Drayton McLane severed his ties with Clemens. By not offering the right-hander arbitration, the Astros are now back burnered until May 1, and while a majority of baseball insiders think Clemens will still end up in Houston, the four-month-plus window gives Steinbrenner a chance to fill three needs at once.

First, Clemens would give the Yankees’ rotation an immediate upgrade and allow them to send Carl Pavano packing. Despite general manager Brian Cashman’s insistence that Pavano is an integral part of the Bombers’ machinery in 2006, the unhappy pitcher’s attitude continues to be a problem.

A.J. Burnett said this week that Pavano is “miserable” pitching in New York, and has told a number of friends – including Burnett, his former teammate in Florida – he wants to be traded. Clemens’ presence would make Pavano expendable, assuming someone would actually pay $10 million for an injured sinkerballer with diminished velocity.

If Cashman can pull off a deal for Pavano, he deserves early consideration for Executive of the Year. But the Yankees clearly need a pitching response to the Red Sox and Blue Jays, both of whom are now stronger at the front of the rotation.

Unlike the Yankees, the Astros don’t have $15 million to $20 million to hold in reserve while Clemens weighs his option. That money has to be budgeted and spent in the next two months. Conversely, the Bombers are flush with cash, always their most potent weapon.

In this case, money is no object, considering the Yankees are projecting a 2006 budget that’s at least $20 million lighter than in ’05 (assuming they don’t sign Damon). Writing a last-minute check won’t cause Steinbrenner any financial pain.

It might even be the smartest cash withdrawal he’s ever made.

After having outbid San Diego for the services of Trevor Hoffman (and lost), the Indians have gone back to their most recent closer/fashion plate, Bob Wickman (above), retaining the big leagues’ most handsome man.

The Orioles are supposedly close to signing Jeff Conine. When David Sloane accused the Marlins of trying to field Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and the 7 dwarfs, he wasn’t far off.