"If you ask me today, we're going to try to improve the club somehow," Amaro said before Sunday's 5-0 loss to the New York Mets. "That could change, I guess. But that's the thought process right now."
Still, there is a hint of doubt in all of Amaro's words. The general manager insists he wants to buy, but further convincing is required. That could come in the form of six games against two first-place teams, St. Louis and Detroit.
The Phillies need relief help. They are carrying three catchers and four outfielders while Ben Revere's return is in question. Amaro offered a blunt assessment of his farm system when saying: "We don't have another outfielder that we think is better than the three catchers we have. It's pretty simple."
He said the asking prices of other teams are far too high. He does not want to trade young talent because he spent years doing that, and the repercussions are overwhelming. And in most talks, he said teams have asked for players on the major-league roster.
"It makes it difficult to subtract when we're trying to add," Amaro said.
So, what is the solution?
"We've had some conversations with clubs," Amaro said. "Doing trades in this day and age is not easy."
Infielder Michael Young, ostensibly, is one player being sought by other clubs. Boston has a need and scouted the Phillies with regularity. Young's name has been tied to the New York Yankees, who lost Alex Rodriguez for longer than expected, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Young has a full no-trade clause but would waive it for a chance at contention.
There is logic in a Young trade. His return in 2014 is unlikely. The Phillies have numerous internal options - from Kevin Frandsen to Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis - to replace him for the remainder of 2013.
The dilemma is whether the return on Young in a deadline deal outweighs his potential contributions. That, of course, is tied to whether the Phillies believe they can compete in 2013 or use the final two months as an evaluation for 2014.
"[Young] and Domonic Brown have been the biggest keys to our offense," Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee said. "Without those two guys, we'd be in a pretty tough spot. As far as Mike getting traded, that's just another 'what if?' Any guy can be traded. If they trade him, I hope they bring back somebody who is even better than him. That's going to be hard to do, considering the type of player he is."
Amaro could bite if Young, a valued commodity who does not fit into next season's plans, fetches a relief arm under control for 2014. Without tinkering, these Phillies will enter 2014 with the same bullpen conundrums they presently face. Mike Adams will undergo shoulder surgery that likely will sideline him well into next year. Jonathan Papelbon's ERA is low, but his velocity and strikeouts are declining. None of the young relievers beyond Antonio Bastardo has emerged as a reliable option. The Phillies have the National League's worst bullpen ERA (4.36).
"Right now, the price tag is high," Amaro said. "It'll probably remain high."
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @magelb.