Free Agency Kicks Off

As the clock strikes midnight, the offseason will officially begin for the Tigers and the 29 other major league clubs, as Friday is the first day teams can begin to negotiate and sign free agents – they had to declare their free agency by the end of the day Thursday. Like last offseason, the Tigers figure to be prominent players. But, again the question is, if the Tigers come calling, will anyone pick up?

Last offseason, the Tigers made quite a splash, but only after feeling a number of rejections did they receive commitments. Miguel Tejada listened, but countered with a near ridiculous offer. Vladimir Guerrero told the Tigers not to bother. Even Reggie Sanders wasn't very interested.

But after a 29-game improvement, the Tigers hope to get some different results. Besides looking to add a big bat in the lineup, the Tigers also appear to be interested in adding a frontline starting pitcher, as well as obviously upgrading a bullpen that needs a serious overhaul.

It appears as if the Tigers plan to start their free agency plans on Starting Pitcher Carl Pavano, coming off a breakout season for the Florida Marlins. The Tigers will have plenty of competition though, as the Red Sox and Yankees among others are also believed to be interested. And you can bet that when those two are involved the price won't be cheap.

Among other starters, the Tigers appear to be interested in Matt Clement, Odalis Perez and Derek Lowe, albeit to a lesser extent than Pavano. The Dearborn-native Lowe has expressed interest in returning home to the Tigers, but it's unlikely he'll see a better offer than what the Red Sox offered him this past spring (3 years, $27 million).

The available arms for the bullpen aren't nearly as noteworthy, and because of this the Tigers may very well have to look into other venues to upgrade their bullpen. If the Tigers do look to free agency to make a bullpen upgrade, they might very start with former Marlins closer Antonio Alfonseca or Steve Kline, if they are willing to shell out significant dollars to add a solid reliever to set up Ugueth Urbina.

Among the hitters, the Tigers will need to decide what they plan on doing at Third base, but that could depend largely on whether or not anyone listens to their free agent overtures. The Tigers would love to be able to place Adrian Beltre or Troy Glaus in the middle of the lineup, but Beltre figures to be out of their price range coming off an MVP-caliber season, while Glaus' injury concerns have brought on suggestions that he's destined to be a Designated Hitter – something the Tigers certainly aren't in need of.

The top players might not be available to the Tigers, but one player they'll probably take a long, hard look at is Corey Koskie. The money-strapped Twins have a number of other free agents that they need to worry about, and with one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, might look in another direction for Third base, leaving Koskie available.

Besides Third base, upgrading in the Outfield remains a possibility – but largely only if they can get someone that would be a significant upgrade over their current group. Like Beltre, the other top man on the market, CF Carlos Beltran will likely be out of the Tigers reach. But don't be surprised if they make a run at Outfielder J.D. Drew, who finally put it all together after a change of scenery in 2004. And if the team can potentially find a taker for Bobby Higginson and his contract, the market would open up significantly to expand to Magglio Ordonez and possibly Jermaine Dye.

So many possibilities, so many questions. But one thing is for sure – the Tigers won't be sitting back like they have in year's past. Dave Dombrowski and Company will be active again, and if they can hook another big fish (a la Ivan Rodriguez last offseason), we might just be looking at the first winning ballclub Detroit has seen 1993.

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