ATLANTA — The Phillies arrived here late Thursday night for a series that could decide their 2012 fate. It is difficult to parse a 162-game season into a three-game stretch in late July, but the Phillies occupy a tenuous position between contending and irrelevancy.
"The numbers don't lie," Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We've put ourselves in a very difficult position."
The Phillies general manager was accompanied by three of his assistants, or "henchmen" as he calls them. There are decisions to be made with Tuesday's trade deadline nearing.
A good or bad weekend could provide clarity.
"These three games are important, yeah," Amaro said. "How determinant they are about how we go about our business from here on in, I don't know yet. Again, it’s kind of a fluid situation. If we get swept here, it's going to make things very daunting for us. We take two out of three, that's good. We happen to sweep them, even better."
Amaro played coy and issued the standard declarations around these times: He has spoken to many teams in the last few weeks about a variety of ideas. He wants to keep his expensive starting rotation together. He does not know if he will make a trade before Tuesday.
The Phillies have sought bullpen upgrades, but they are not alone in that quest. They have reportedly offered Shane Victorino for a young middle reliever only to be rebuffed by Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
"Somebody has to want to trade with you," Amaro said.
The Phillies, of course, are not bound to the July 31 deadline. Should they have a good weekend against the Braves and compel Amaro to not sell off important pieces only to falter later, deals are still possible.
Players must clear trade waivers after July 31 before they are eligible to be dealt. Those waivers are revocable. So, for example, if a contending team were to claim free-agents-to-be Victorino or Joe Blanton, the Phillies could attempt to work a trade or simply let the acquiring team assume the remainder of their salaries.
How realistic is any action after July 31?
"I don't know," Amaro said. "I know there's a lot of talk out there. I know there is a lot of dialogue going on between different clubs, different ideas. A lot of interesting stuff. A lot of crazy stuff. We’ve talked about some crazy stuff."
Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.