Braves on to Plan B after Dempster trade falters

The Atlanta Braves missed out on Ryan Dempster and may look to Zack Greinke to fill the void.

If there’s a Plan B, it’s time for the Braves to set it in motion.

Plan A was Ryan Dempster. That blew up.

The next step appears to be somehow finding a way to coax Zack Greinke from the Brewers and then throw enough Benjamins his way -- think The Joker and that huge stack of money in “The Dark Knight” -- to persuade him to stay in Atlanta past October.

The first part of that is difficult enough. The second part just became nearly impossible because of the deal the Phillies handed Cole Hamels on Wednesday.

Hamels was thought to be on the trading block. His name had been lumped with other starters thought to be on the move before the July 31 trading deadline. But the last-place Phillies signed Hamels to a six-year, $144 million deal, which is the largest in club history and makes him the second-highest paid pitcher in the majors, behind only CC Sabathia of the Yankees.

So much for the Phillies being sellers.

Greinke would surely want more than that after turning down the Brewers’ offer of more than $100 million for five years last week.

He’s the top pitcher on the market and scouts filled the seats – including Jim Fregosi, Atlanta’s top guy -- in Philly on Tuesday night to watch him befuddle the Phillies for seven innings.

Greinke was at his best.

He gave up three hits, didn’t walk anybody, struck out five and left with a 6-1 lead. He didn’t get the win because the Brewers’ bullpen wasted Greinke’s work, but it’s safe to say that everybody left significantly impressed with him.

I liked the Dempster deal, even though it meant giving up rookie Randall Delgado, because the Braves have to do something to bolster a starting rotation that has been knocked around like a used piñata and is shallower than the cast of “Jersey Shore.”

Even though Dempster isn’t a top-of-the-rotation ace like Greinke, he’s been one of the most effective starters in the NL this season. He would have added depth and experience and a consistent veteran arm for the stretch drive.

Chipper Jones and David Ross even voiced their support for the deal.

It also showed the Braves are flashing a win-now mindset.

It means they’re serious about not only making the playoffs but that they’re determined to overtake the Nationals and win the NL East.

Remember, this is a franchise that has been the playoffs only once in the past six seasons. That’s something the Braves’ brass is committed to changing this year.

I’m glad the Braves have moved on from the Dempster debacle.

If he would rather play for the Dodgers than the Braves, they don’t need him. Dempster likely wouldn’t have re-signed when his contract was up and the Braves would have been left with nothing.

They need to refocus their energy on Greinke, the Cubs’ Matt Garza or the Rays’ James Shields or another name that hasn’t been caught up in the ever-shifting rumor mill.

The Marlins’ Josh Johnson would be another excellent addition, but it’s tough to imagine Miami trading him to a divisional rival, even though those teams have recent history (See: Dan Uggla).

No matter who it is, the Braves have to improve a rotation that has a 4.31 ERA, ahead of only the Astros and Rockies in the NL.

Sending Jair Jurrjens back out there would be counter-productive. Even though he’s only 26, he’s proven that he can no longer fool major-league hitters.

And given their struggles with Delgado and Mike Minor at times this season, the Braves don’t appear ready to throw top prospect Julio Teheran into the heat of a pennant chase.

The Braves should continue to pursue a veteran arm, even if it costs them Delgado or a package of prospects. Greinke likely would cost Teheran and others.

They’re in a position to win now. Go with productivity over promise.

As the Braves’ recent history has shown, the playoffs don’t come around as often as they once did.