It's plausible that Saruman was already evil during the events of The Hobbit. Treebeard's explanation of Saruman to Pippin and Merry is indeed curious (emphasis/bold mine):
[Wizards] appeared first after the Great Ships came over the Sea, but
if they came with the Ships I never can tell. Saruman was reckoned
great among them, I believe. He gave up wandering about and minding
the affairs of Men and Elves, some time ago--you would call it a
very long time ago . . . He was very quiet to begin with, but his fame
began to grow. He was chosen to be the head of the White Council,
they say; but that did not turn out too well. I wonder now if even
then Saruman was not turning to evil ways . . . I used to talk to
him. There was a time when he was always walking about my woods. He
was polite in those days, always asking my leave (at least when he met
me); and always eager to listen. I told him many things that he
would have never have found out by himself; but he never repaid me in
like kind. I cannot remember that he ever told me anything. And he
got more and more like that; his face, as I remember it--I have not
seen it for many a day--became like windows in a stone wall: windows
with shutters inside. I think that I now understand what he is up
to. He is plotting to become a Power.
Two things. Treebeard hasn't seen Saruman in a long time--which when Treebeard says a long time, HE MEANS IT! And, Saruman was already corrupt from Treebeard's description. So, it's plausible that he would want Sauron on the chessboard, so to speak, to create a situation where he could be the one who might "become a Power."
EDIT: I suppose what I mean is that Saruman vying for power could be spotted and stopped. The Necromancer, however, would be a diversion! And, it worked---Gandalf was caught off guard when he traveled to Saruman only to be imprisoned atop Orthanc.