After a couple of days filled with reports and rumors of possible trades surrounding Astros ace pitcher Roy Oswalt, things seem to be at a standstill, at least from the St. Louis Cardinals’ perspective.

A report on on July 21 deemed the Cardinals as “front-runners” to land the former All-Star and Cy Young Award candidate. The Philadelphia Phillies are also a threat to land Oswalt, and even the Minnesota Twins have expressed interest.

But since then, no real discussions have begun to hatch between the Cardinals’ front office and Houston regarding Oswalt. In fact, it appeared on Friday that the Cardinals may have taken a step back in the Oswalt sweepstakes.

Oswalt made it clear that if he were traded to anywhere but St. Louis, he would want his $16 million option in 2012 to be picked up. He said he would waive the option being picked up for an opportunity to pitch for the reigning National League Central champions.

That, plus the fact that Oswalt named St. Louis as his first choice for a destination, was what gave the Cardinals the upper hand.

But Friday, reports out of Houston were that general manager Ed Wade and owner Drayton McLane would be reluctant to trade Oswalt to the division-rival Cardinals and would prefer a deal elsewhere, perhaps Philadelphia, which is looking to add a pitcher after losing Jamie Moyer to an injury, or even the Los Angeles Dodgers, who put their name in the mix on Friday.

The Astros want “two top prospects, a third minor-league player and a young player who is ‘major league ready’” if they trade Oswalt. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak declined to comment on the trade possibilities, other than saying the team is exploring a “spectrum” of possibilities.

Wade isn’t the only one who’s reluctant to pull the trigger on a deal that would send Oswalt to the Cardinals—and effectively form what would have to be the best rotation in the National League.

Cardinals chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr. said Thursday a deal for any premium player is a “long shot.”

“You want to have the (payroll) flexibility to add an impact (player) if it’s possible,” Dewitt told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch . “We are very reluctant to give up high-end talent (prospects). The marketplace has changed. I think there are few deals where you can be sure you’re getting value back.”

You would have to figure that at least one of the high-end prospects that Dewitt is referring to is Cardinals 2009 first-round draft choice Shelby Miller, a 6’3″, 195-pound righty, who can reach 98 mph on the radar.

But according to Goold, Miller, a Texas native, is ineligible to be traded until he’s been under contract for an entire year, which would be in August; therefore, if a deal were to take place with him involved, it would have to be a “player to be named later” deal.

The Cardinals may not have all the pieces to form a desirable deal for Houston after they traded two of their top prospects, third baseman Brett Wallace and pitcher Clayton Mortensen, for Matt Holliday last season.

Triple-A prospect Lance Lynn is certainly a potential prospect to be traded. Lynn is just 23 years old and is 7-8 for Triple-A Memphis this season. He is an innings-eater and strikes out a fair amount of batters. Also, with the solid play of Jon Jay and Allen Craig, it wouldn’t be crazy to think their names would be mentioned in trade talks as well.

The Cardinals had been rumored to be interested in former Cardinal Dan Haren, but it seems their focus has shifted solely to Oswalt at this point. The Phillies and New York Yankees are also in the bidding for Haren, so that could play a role in where Oswalt ends up if the Phillies become more serious about landing the younger Haren.

At this point, just a week away from the July 31 trade deadline, it’s hard to say whether a deal will get done for the Cardinals involving Oswalt. If a deal does in fact go through, it’ll most likely be extremely close to, if not on, July 31.

If the Cardinals can’t land Oswalt, one would have to assume that Mozeliak would pursue a different starter, perhaps Jake Westbrook of the Cleveland Indians, whose name has been linked to the Cardinals.

With injuries to starters Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny, coupled with the poor performance of Jeff Suppan, Mozeliak has made it clear that he’d like to add a pitcher before the deadline, regardless of if they’re an ace or not.

But as far as Oswalt is concerned, each team involved knows what it wants out of the deal and will do all it can to make sure it gets just that. It’s simply a waiting game to see who wants Oswalt more and who’s more willing to pull the trigger on what will arguably be the biggest trade of this year’s deadline.

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