Contributing to that reality have been the recent struggles of both ace Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon and the fact that two potential suitors have filled their needs for a closer. Marlon Byrd still remains an attractive trade piece, but there have been no big fish biting on that bait.
That begs the question: What should the Phillies do if they are unable to make a trade?
The backup plan has to be to dump salary, either now or in the offseason. In today’s game against the San Francisco Giants, Ryan Howard was out of the starting lineup for the second-straight day — the first against a right-hander — and Howard now appears to be the first salary dump. The Phillies still owe Howard $60 million over two years, but they must negotiate a deal with another team that offers Howard for nothing more than help to pay at least part of that salary.
Plan B should also include working Darin Ruf into the lineup as the first baseman of the future and work younger players into other parts of the lineup.
Without a trade now, there is nothing the Phillies can do until the offseason. They should dump as much salary as possible to jettison veterans and then sign younger players with a longer upside as free agents in the offseason.
Plan A — trading Papelbon, Lee and Byrd for prospects — is the preferred option, but there’s only one week until that plan falls apart. Fixing this train wreck requires a backup plan.