PHILADELPHIA -- Ruben Amaro Jr. seemed to have a pretty easy decision to make a little more than a week ago.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
But the Phillies entered Wednesday's game against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park winners of six of their last eight games and playing in a division that is arguably the weakest in baseball. So the club's general manager seemed buoyed by the news Ryan Howard had successful knee surgery earlier in the day.
Howard had a debridement of the left medial meniscus. His timetable to return is six to eight weeks.
"After [Phillies physician Michael] Ciccotti went in there and went in with the scope, it was a little better picture than we thought," Amaro said. "I think the player is feeling better about it, we're feeling better about it. As news goes, this is as good as we can get."
Amaro said it probably changes the season's outlook, "because we'll have him back. There's a reasonable chance we'll have him back at some point. We still have a lot of question marks about where we're going to go in the next couple of weeks. Right now, the team is making decisions a little harder on me, which is fine and which is good. I'd rather be in this situation than thinking about 2014 right now."
Amaro met with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, the Phillies coaching staff and others in the organization Tuesday, although he declined to call it an organizational meeting.
Regardless of what one calls it, the organization's decision-makers met to discuss the team leading to the July 31 Trade Deadline.
"There were no real revelations," Amaro said. "We are playing better baseball and putting ourselves in a position to be buyers. But there was nothing new out of it."
So they are leaning toward buying at this point?
"Yeah, I think we'll try to do that," he said.
The biggest need seems to be the bullpen. Since the end of May, the Phillies rank seventh in baseball, averaging 4.58 runs per game. Since a loss in San Diego on June 24, they are seventh, averaging 5.29 runs per game. But the bullpen has a 5.21 ERA since June 8, which is 27th in baseball.
"It's a hard one to get," Amaro said of bullpen help.
Of course, a bad stretch before the Trade Deadline and the Phillies are back to sellers. So would they sacrifice a top prospect for a reliever, knowing how fickle they can be (i.e. Mike Adams, Chad Qualls, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez, etc.)?
"Maybe," Amaro said.
But the best guess is probably not, unless it is a clear difference-maker to pitch in front of closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Amaro will be a busy man in the coming weeks.
Buy? Sell? For the moment, the Phillies are leaning toward buying, but that can change with one bad week.
"I would assume things would go down to the wire, unless we reel off 10 out of 11 or we lose 10 out of 11," he said. "Then we'll have a clearer picture. Right now, we're just not sure. I would assume like most years, it would go down to the wire."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.