Free Agency Kicks Off with Preliminary Move

The free agent market opens on Friday, but the Tigers decided they couldn't wait until then to make their first move of the offseason, shipping out infielder John McDonald to the team that they acquired him from midseason; the Toronto Blue Jays.

John McDonald came in and did a solid job for the Tigers, filling the void that opened up when the Tigers lost Ramon Martinez to the Phillies in the deal that brought Placido Polanco to Detroit.

But with Polanco, as well as Carlos Guillen and Omar Infante, there simply wasn't much of a need for another middle infielder to take up a seat on the bench. The Tigers received cash considerations in return for McDonald, just days after sending cash to Toronto to complete the original deal from over the summer.

The Tigers also lost their other backup middle infielder from last season, as Jason Smith signed a deal with the Colorado Rockies.

Meanwhile, the Tigers focus remains on the cream of the crop in the pitching department, namely starter A.J. Burnett and closer Billy Wagner.

With Mike Ilitch's pledge to spend what it takes to win, it's expected that money will not be an obstacle in bringing these players to Detroit. Instead, the obstacle likely lies in convincing these players that Detroit is a worthwhile destination, and that the Tigers are indeed serious about winning.

One player who could use some of that convincing is Pudge Rodriguez, who obviously had a rough sophomore season in Detroit. But with a large contract and no real viable options on the free agent market as potential replacements, Rodriguez would be best off to work to bring those pitchers to the Motor City.

If the Tigers strike out in their pursuits of Burnett and/or Wagner, they will likely turn to the next level, including starter Kevin Millwood and closer B.J. Ryan. After those pitchers though, there appears to be a significant dropoff.

Starter Jason Johnson appears to be headed out, as the talk out of Tiger camp is of improving on the production he provided the Tigers over the past two years. While hopes are high for youngsters like Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander, that improvement will likely have to come from outside the organization.

Much like last season, the Tigers are heading into free agency talking a big game. Now it'll be up to them to see if they can turn some of that talk into a new big league pitcher in Detroit.

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