"It goes back a while," said the White Sox general manager, speaking in the home dugout at U.S. Cellular Field after acquiring Peavy for Clayton Richard and three top Minor Leaguer hurlers just seconds before Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline of 3 p.m. CT. "It goes back to last year's Trade Deadline, when I first tried to acquire Jake."
The more publicized attempt by Williams to pry Peavy from his former club came on May 21, when the White Sox had a deal in place, pending Peavy waiving his full no-trade clause. As Williams pointed out on Friday, Peavy and his family were caught off-guard at the time and the right-hander never said no.
Regardless of the semantics, Peavy did not join the White Sox that day, the same afternoon when Minnesota hung a 20-1 home loss on the South Siders. At that point, the White Sox had a 17-23 record and sat 6 1/2 games out of first place in the competitive American League Central, while the Padres were in National League West contention.
Clearly, those respective situations have changed.
"In May, we didn't think it was the right time," said Peavy, speaking during a press conference in San Diego on Friday. "Now, things are a little bit different on a lot of fronts. I'm excited to go to an organization that has made winning a priority."
"He said not yet," said Williams of Peavy's initial response. "Those words meant just that. If you allow the process to play out sometimes and you are patient in your pursuit, then sometimes you can get what you want."
Williams said the conversations with San Diego general manager Kevin Towers literally didn't start again until Friday morning. Towers admitted that he began Friday not expecting to move Peavy, but Williams wanted to avoid the potential trade being discussed and dissected in the court of public opinion as it was in May.
There was contact made by Williams with Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod, to see if Peavy would now waive his no-trade clause. Peavy couldn't be reached early Friday morning because his cell phone was turned off as he and his family slept in, but Axelrod went over to Peavy's house to get the official word.
As the Trade Deadline quickly approached, Williams wasn't sure if the deal would be done in time -- even with Peavy's approval in tow.
"Literally, with two minutes left, I'm on the phone with Axelrod and I'm on the phone with Kevin Towers, and [assistant general manager] Rick Hahn is on the phone with Major League Baseball because it has to be in," said Williams with an exasperated laugh. "I really didn't think it all was going to come together in the end. I was prepared for it to not meet the deadline. It all came together with 23 seconds on the clock."
Adding Peavy meant that the White Sox gave up Friday's scheduled starter Richard, who had allowed two runs combined in his last 16 innings over two starts, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter. Poreda, a hard-throwing left-hander, was the team's top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. They were the same four players agreed upon when the deal was first put in place back in May.
Peavy has been on the disabled list with a strained tendon in his right ankle since June 13. Williams said he is not expected back until the White Sox 11-game road trip to Boston, New York, Minnesota and Wrigley Field from August 24 to Sept. 3, but the good news is that this particular injury is exacerbated more by running the bases-not an American League concern for Peavy.
With the AL Central as tight as it currently stands, Williams can handle the wait for this possibly mammoth September callup.
"He's champing at the bit right now, but we are going to be conservative with our approach," said Williams of Peavy, who will start a rehab assignment in the middle of August and has a 6-6 record with a 3.97 ERA this season. "This thing is going to come down to winning games in September in our division, and we want to be as strong as we possibly can be in September. That's what we are focused on."
"A couple of mound sessions and I'll do whatever the White Sox want," Peavy said. "I've thrown on flat ground, and we were certainly going to take it as slow as we could [in San Diego] because the goals were different. I think I'm healthy. I'm a little weak in the ankle and the arm isn't as caught up as where it should be this time of year."
Peavy, 28, is signed through 2012 and is owed $48 million over the next three seasons. The White Sox did not receive cash considerations along with Peavy, but they did not have to guarantee Peavy's $22 million club option in 2013.
Even if Peavy's contributions are limited in 2009, the team has an extremely solid rotation in place over the next two years with Peavy, Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd. And, after much deliberation, Peavy is happy to be in Chicago.
"This wouldn't have happened if we hadn't [sat] down and thought about it [in May] and worked through all the different factors," Peavy said. "When there is one team that comes after you as hard as Chicago did, you're excited to play for them."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.