That piece of news didn't seem to faze Ken Williams when relayed to him during a chat with the media prior to Monday's series opener with the A's, as the general manager readily admitted he was not in any sort of pursuit of the Houston ace.
"You want me to respond to something we haven't made an overture towards?" said Williams with a smile. "[Oswalt] probably hasn't been asked the question, and someone has written or talked about it as though it were something that was imminent or a reality. And it's not."
In actuality, the news from the Chronicle was conveyed via a blog and not published as a newspaper article because the writer had been assured by a National League official that the White Sox and Astros were not in trade talks. Williams broke from his usual code of silence to confirm that piece of news on Monday.
"I really prefer not to get into confirming or denying something because you tip your hand, and if you tip your hand, you don't get anything done," Williams said. "But I'll make the exception so everyone can relax a little bit. I haven't talked to the Houston Astros about any pitching whatsoever."
The fact that Williams and the White Sox were even tied to Oswalt basically has two-fold reasoning on the South Siders' side. It was just a little less than two weeks ago when a potential four-for-one trade to bring Jake Peavy from San Diego was nixed by the All-Star right-hander, conveying pitching interest on the White Sox behalf.
And where Williams is concerned, no move, bold or small, ever remains out of the question. Although Peavy was owed $48 million over the next three years, with a $22 million club option for 2013, the White Sox were ready to take on the salary in order to give the team a better chance at winning in 2009 and beyond.
So, a question was put to Williams on Monday as to what he prefers more: actually being active in pursuit of a trade or having other teams and scouts believe he's perusing the market, as was the case with Oswalt. An amused-but-thoughtful Williams couldn't provide a definitive answer.
"I'm very sensitive about false hustle," Williams said. "The perception -- during the offseason you see this more -- clubs say they are going after this guy or that guy, and it's not likely real. It's false hustle and misleading to your fan base.
"It's with the same mindset I don't want to deceive anybody or the people out there hoping and praying something is going to happen. I guess I don't care what the perception is, whether we are out there working or other GMs think we are lurking."
One of the offshoots of the aggressive attitude always associated with Williams is that other teams could pay too much in a trade in order to counter a potential move by the White Sox general manager. Williams has no problem with that particular scenario playing out.
"Oh, the perception if we are doing something, then the Tigers or Indians might have to step up? I'm OK with that," said Williams with a laugh. "That means ... if you are too reactionary to someone else's activity, you are likely to do something that will cost you in the short term or in the long term. So I'm OK with that either way."
Lost in the Peavy trade talk and the unfounded Oswalt trade rumor is the strong manner in which the White Sox starting rotation has stepped up in the interim. Clayton Richard, one of the players who would have been part of the Peavy deal, has done so both physically, mentally and with his mound toughness, according to Williams, making it unnecessary to supplement the starters at this point.
"Sometimes the best deals you make are the ones you don't make," Williams said.
Where Oswalt and the White Sox are concerned, there was never any deal to discuss or approve.
"Billy Scherrer happens to be on his regular tour," Williams said of his special assistant. "I didn't even know he was in Houston. Because he's seen, there's an automatic assumption.
"What we do is we acquire a player, [and] we didn't start scouting him last week. It's a year or two years in some cases."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less