The Phillies begin the first day of the rest of their two-week lives on Friday when they open a three-city road trip that could ultimately determine whether Ruben Amaro Jr. will try to strip down or beef up the team.

Either way, there's no guarantee the Phils will be able to navigate the path they choose. If they opt to package prospects and superfluous players in order to bolster the sagging bullpen and perhaps add a bat, that would require finding another team to provide those helpful pieces and accept the swap Amaro proposes. If they decide to close the show, deal away veterans, and rebuild with someone else's prospects, that represents just about the same level of difficulty.

"Making a trade is hard," Amaro said before the all-star break. "Right now, there's a lot more buyers than sellers because everybody is still in it." Even when the next two weeks shake that out a bit, and the urgency of the non-waiver trade deadline takes hold, Amaro and the front office will have some battles to fight with other organizations, and a few policy items to sort through internally, too.

Getting ready to go into a potential trading flurry, a baseball team has to know exactly how it ranks its own prospects. When the phone call comes with a trade offer, a general manager can't caucus an organizational meeting to chew it over.

For instance, let's say Amaro identifies a good bullpen pitcher who can help the team not only this season, but in future seasons. Amaro was asked before the break whether he would part with a top prospect in order to get a good pitcher to settle the bullpen situation in the middle innings.

"Maybe," he said, meaning it would depend on the "good" pitcher and the "top" prospect. Let's say the price being asked for the bullpen pitcher is either Cody Asche or Maikel Franco, currently the third basemen at Lehigh Valley and Reading, respectively. Both are listed among the organization's five best prospects in the latest Inquirer top-25 ranking of minor-league hopefuls. Both are projected to become major-league third basemen, although such projections are notoriously inaccurate. The Phillies could have to choose between Asche and Franco if they wanted to make that particular deal, or be willing to walk away. They could have to take everything they know and decide whether Franco or Asche is the better bet to have a long, successful major-league career. The fact is they will have to decide eventually unless one or the other falls by the wayside of his own accord.