To him, it's about unfinished business on the field -- not just for himself, but for the team.
"I feel comfortable here," Renteria said Sunday morning. "I feel embarrassed, because I'm the kind of player that I love to win, and this year, we didn't play the way we have to play. I feel embarrassed for myself. I'm not talking about anybody else. It's just myself, and I feel disappointed. That's why I want to come back and show I'm ready to go."
Before that's decided, though, the Tigers have their side of the business to address.
Renteria's $12 million club option is the last piece of the free-agent contract he signed when he joined the Red Sox after the 2004 season. He has been traded twice since then, heading to Detroit last offseason in the deal that sent right-hander Jair Jurrjens and outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez to Atlanta. Renteria's early-season struggles and Jurrjens' success with the Braves have put more attention on that deal, but it has also raised the question of what the Tigers will do at shortstop in 2009.
Renteria entered Sunday with a .269 batting average, 22 doubles, 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in 137 games. Virtually all his offensive numbers will end down from last year in Atlanta, despite playing in more games this season. His batting average, on-base and slugging percentages, moreover, are set to be his lowest since 2001.
Parse into the stats, however, and Renteria is batting .294 with a .810 OPS since the All-Star break, compared to .254 and .627 in the season's first half. He has 17 doubles in 194 at-bats since the break, 12 more than he had going in.
"When I see my numbers, it's not like a bad year," Renteria said. "It's like an all right year. It's not the kind of year I put up before, but that's happened to me twice already when I was going to be a free agent. I don't know, maybe [it was in] the back of my mind, because I never think about it when I play."
The Tigers must decide soon after the World Series whether to exercise Renteria's option or decline it, which would make him a free agent. While he's coming off a down year, including by his own standards, the next question would be how the Tigers would replace Renteria at shortstop.
That makes the issue tougher, especially with no heir apparent in Detroit's farm system. That also raises the possibility that the Tigers could decline Renteria's option and try to re-sign him at a lower salary.
That would not be a deal-breaker with Renteria, who wants to return one way or the other.
"I want to come back," Renteria said, "because I really liked it."
How much money would play into it on his side wasn't clear. When asked about accepting a lower salary than the option, Renteria indicated it isn't the most pressing issue for him.
"I think I've made enough already," he said. "I want another championship."
But Renteria also wants to make a fair salary.
"You have to make what you deserve," he said. "But that's not why you play. You play because you love the game. You play hard."
Renteria believes Detroit is the best place for him to try to get another title.
"Next year, I know that the situation is going to be different," Renteria said. "That never happens to a good team twice in a row. I still believe this is a good team, and I feel that next year, this team can go all the way through. That's why I want to be part of the situation, you know?"
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.