Updated: July 19, 2011, 10:38 AM ET

Keep up with ESPN's reporters and analysts, as they track down all of the latest news and information leading up to the trade deadline at 4 p.m. ET on July 31.

Daily Rumble: Welcome to the Roy Oswalt Show

Stark By Jayson Stark
Cliff Lee is gone. Dan Haren is off the board. So strike up the band, because this is now the Roy Oswalt Show.

There's only one "premium" arm left on the starting pitching market, and it's attached to the right shoulder of the 32-year-old Astros ace. But unlike Lee, and unlike Haren, you easily could find this particular premium arm in exactly the same spot a week from now as you find it today -- in Houston.

An official of one team estimated Monday that, based on how the Astros' trade talks have been progressing (or not), he thinks there's no better than a 30 percent chance that Oswalt will be dealt this week.

An executive of another club said: "I've thought it was about a 50-50 shot the whole time. I might go a little more than 50-50 now, but not much more."

There still has been no indication that any team other than the Dodgers, Phillies and Cardinals is seriously pursuing Oswalt -- "unless Minnesota is in this and just being very quiet about it," one AL exec said. But none of those teams has made much headway in the past week.

We've spent a lot of time in recent days talking about Oswalt's contract and whether he'd need his $16 million 2012 option picked up. But that's turning into almost a side issue.

The biggest hang-up for all three teams is the player haul that Houston wants back -- a young, front-line player off the big league roster, two high-end prospects and one more prospect.

That's a price that none of these teams is prepared to pay. But don't assume it's a price that will get discounted anytime soon, said one source who is tight with Astros owner Drayton McLane.

McLane, the source said, "has a tightrope to walk." He's a man consumed by what his public thinks of him, so he can't come out of this looking as though he's "cheap." And he's determined not to come out of this with his fans accusing him of not caring about winning.

So "the key," the source said, "is for Drayton to be able to brag about what he got in return."

That's still possible if the Astros play this right. But what's not possible is coming away with the gargantuan return they've been asking so far.

The Dodgers, for instance, are deep in prospects and young players. But one club that spoke with them believes Houston asked them for James Loney plus big-time prospects. And that won't fly.

The Phillies, on the other hand, would give the Astros left-hander J.A. Happ, whom Houston has now scouted twice in the past week. But the Phillies won't give up Class A first baseman Jonathan Singleton, aka their best hitting prospect not named Domonic Brown. They've told every team that has called that they're not interested in moving Singleton in any deal.

And the Cardinals are in the toughest position of all here, because the Astros have told other clubs they don't want to deal Oswalt within the division, even if he tries to force their hand. And while St. Louis would trade outfielder Jon Jay and prospects, other teams have a hard time seeing how the Cardinals' system is deep enough even to tempt the Astros. ("I just don't see where the players would come from," one AL exec said.)

So obviously, a lot can change between now and Saturday afternoon. But remember those words: "The key is for Drayton to be able to brag about what he got." It's all about how high McLane draws The Brag Line now. And for the moment, that bar is set higher than any of these contestants can jump.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.


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