Late last week, Roy Oswalt blinked. He backed off of his demand that any club - other than the Cardinals - that was going to trade for him, would have to guarantee his contract for 2012. Initially, when Oswalt made the demand, it seemed to shoot the Phillies out of the running to acquire Oswalt, but with his concession, they're right back in the hunt for the 32 year-old right-hander. And to make matters even rosier, the Astros have been scouting J.A. Happ and were reportedly pretty happy with what they saw him in his start against Colorado on Sunday, even though it wasn't exactly a stellar start for the left-hander.
One of the pieces that the Astros want in exchange for Oswalt, is a major league ready pitcher and Happ would fit the bill. He would also be a nice enough piece of the puzzle, that the Phillies might not have to relinquish too many prospects in the trade for Oswalt. Also going in the Phillies favor is Sunday's trade of Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks to the Angels. Baseball experts were surprised that the D'backs couldn't get a better return for Haren and what initially looked like a guy who was going to bring some strong prospects to Arizona turned into somewhat of a salary dump that could force Houston to lower their price on Oswalt, by just a little.
Speaking of Haren, it's surprising that the Phillies - or many other clubs - wouldn't have offered a better package in exchange for a guy that was thought to be pretty highly coveted by a number of clubs. Would you rather have Joe Saunders, who the D'backs got as part of the package, or Happ? And the Phillies could have also matched the very mildly impressive collection of prospects that the Angels included in the deal.
There were a number of scouts in attendance for Oswalt's last start, which wasn't up to his usual standards. Perhaps, the whirlwind of trade rumors is starting to get to him as the deadline nears. If you remember last July, Roy Halladay had a couple of rough outings right about this time of the year, which were also attributed to some distractions.
While the Cardinals were thought to be the front-runners, if for no other reason than the fact that Oswalt seemed to openly prefer being dealt to St. Louis, they're now said to be backing away from a potential deal and are instead waiting to see how Kyle Lohse pitches in a rehab start early this week. If Lohse looks like he's nearing a return, the Cards may just consider him their deadline pick-up and go with what they've got in their rotation. It also appears that the Astros haven't been able to find a fit that they like with the Cardinals and are having a hard time coming up with a package that would work for them, which is the same problem that the Dodgers are having in trying to come up with a deal for Oswalt. With the Cardinals, Dodgers and Phillies thought to be the most adamant about acquiring Oswalt, the Phillies might have become the team with the best chance of getting the former all-star before Saturday's deadline.
Oswalt is currently set to start again on Friday, while the Phillies are still listing their Thursday and Friday starters as "to be announced". If the normal rotation were to hold, Kyle Kendrick would be Thursday's starter and J.A. Happ would be the starter Friday to open the series in Washington.
As for trading Jayson Werth, there is no obvious front-runner at this point and it's looking more and more like the Phillies might wind up hanging on to Werth. One potential deal that still seems to be sitting out there is swapping Werth to the Yankees for pitcher Javier Vazquez, but that doesn't seem likely since the injury to Andy Pettitte delivered a hit to the Yankees starting rotation. The idea of dealing Werth straight-up for a starting pitcher is an intriguing idea for the Phillies, especially with Raul Ibanez starting to hit and the fact that the right-handed hitting Ben Francisco is also starting to hit the ball well.