And with a waiver claim for Manny Ramirez having been awarded to the White Sox earlier Friday, as confirmed to MLB.com by a baseball source, the White Sox general manager realized the inevitable questions were on their way.
Try as the media might to get Williams to talk about the possibility of adding Ramirez, Williams decided the White Sox didn't need a $250,000 tampering fine and he didn't need to talk about any player in particular.
"I heard those reports, and I get you have to ask the question," said Williams with a smile, sitting on a bench in the White Sox dugout two hours prior to Friday's series opener with the Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field. "I can't answer it. I can answer it in my mind, but I can't.
"It's against the tampering rules. It's a large, large fine. Now, I know that a lot of others who speak on such subjects and you guys may be cheated as a result of my unwillingness to go down that road. I prefer to abide by the Major League rules, so I can't talk about it."
If the White Sox want to add Ramirez, they might need to become fans of the Rockies and the Phillies over the next five days leading up to Tuesday's deadline to consummate this trade. The Dodgers want to move Ramirez and especially the remaining $4 million-plus on his contract. But the recent sweep in Milwaukee put them back in the National League Wild Card race, so it's hard to call them sellers.
With crucial head-to-head series against contenders (Colorado beginning Friday night, Philadelphia beginning Monday night and San Francisco beginning next Friday night), and the indisputable fact that they are a better team when a healthy Ramirez is in the lineup, management might wait until Tuesday's deadline to trade for players who would be eligible for the postseason roster before deciding what to do. The Dodgers sat five games out in the NL Wild Card race entering Friday's action, but also behind four teams.
After watching his team come back from nine games under .500 and 9 1/2 games out of first on June 8 to take control of the American League Central before the All-Star break, Williams understands how there's almost no safe time to count out a team until official elimination.
"Quite frankly, I don't know when I'll ever be comfortable anymore in saying we are out of it, because of what has happened this year," Williams said. "You've seen it in recent years with Houston, Colorado the one year. So you have to be careful of declaring yourself out of it.
"Kenny has to go through what they have to do," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen of the Ramirez specter hanging over the team. "If this guy comes here, I guess he's playing. That's all I can say about it. We'll wait and see what happens."
Meanwhile, the Dodgers and the White Sox can spend that time working on a deal, which also includes an anticipated demand by Ramirez for a contract extension in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause. Interest in the Dodgers' left fielder came from the White Sox back at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
At that time, the White Sox reportedly offered the Dodgers a low dollar amount during negotiations, which didn't progress very far. So, the White Sox put a waiver claim in on Ramirez more than likely with the understanding a framework of the trade was in place or the Dodgers would pull back Ramirez. That latter move would not leave the White Sox to pay the full amount of his remaining salary.
Los Angeles has until Tuesday, the last day for a player to be added to be eligible for the playoff roster, to make a trade involving Ramirez, decide to keep him or let the claiming team take him and approximately $4.5 million owed, with $3.3 million deferred.
"Ideally, if you are trying to get anything done, you want to add to your club as quickly as possible," Williams said. "But these things take time, and you have to go through the process.
"Tuesday is a key date, because that's the day you have to have your roster set. In order to get clearance on waivers, if I'm not mistaken, that day is today when it comes about and you have the period of negotiating time to make something happen. Otherwise the player you acquire isn't available for the postseason."
Paying the $4.5 million to Ramirez for one month of service, basically $1 million more than Saturday's starting pitcher John Danks is earning for the full 2010 campaign, would seem a prohibitive cost. But the White Sox play 16 of their final 22 games at U.S. Cellular Field, including four against the Red Sox from Sept. 27-30, and the presence of Ramirez could increase the daily gate.
Ramirez would serve as the team's primary designated hitter, reducing playing time for Mark Kotsay, Andruw Jones and, potentially, Mark Teahen. The White Sox hope to get a motivated Ramirez in his last month before entering free agency, with his bat helping to give the White Sox pitching staff a little more leeway to work and giving them a better chance to make up the 3 1/2-game division deficit on the first-place Twins.
With the White Sox moving away from a player who basically would be limited to just one lineup spot entering the 2010 campaign, although Ramirez could play the outfield, it is unlikely they would commit to him past September and what they hope would be October. Ramirez would prefer to serve as a designated hitter past 2010.
A story concerning Ramirez and the White Sox pretty much has popped up every day since Monday. But it has not taken away from the White Sox all-important on-field focus.
"Hopefully he comes in here and helps us out -- if we get him," White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "That's the extent of what I think about it. If he comes, we need him. If he doesn't, we'll be OK."
"He can't help us tonight, I know that," White Sox captain Paul Konerko said. "That's all I'm thinking about."
Texas was confirmed by MLB.com to have put in a waiver claim on Ramirez. But the waiver process awards the claim in reverse order by record, meaning the White Sox, with the lesser record, were ahead of the Rangers in this particular pursuit of Ramirez.
When news first broke of this Ramirez claim, both the White Sox and Dodgers declined to address the topic. Williams said little more on Friday night.
"All I can say is it will be an interesting weekend, in more ways than one," Williams said.