While Garcia continues his work to get back to his old form, the veteran right-handed starter was among the first to file for free agency on Thursday, the first day for eligible players to put in their paperwork.
The move is essentially a formality for nearly all eligible players who aren't signed with a team. To that extent, former Tigers closer Todd Jones also filed for free agency Thursday, even though he fully intends to retire.
Garcia, 33, also was a free agent last winter, but he was coming back from shoulder surgery and still projected to be rehabbing when the season started. He remained without a club until he signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers in August.
For Garcia, the short stint was the next step in his rehab, allowing him to pitch in organized games under the watch of coaches and instructors with a chance to return to the big leagues by season's end if he felt fine and pitched well. For the Tigers, the deal was an opportunity to let Garcia learn about the franchise up close and potentially foster Garcia's interest in a longer-term deal with the Tigers this offseason should matters work out.
Garcia went 1-1 with a 4.20 ERA over his three starts with Detroit, allowing seven earned runs over 15 innings with six walks and 12 strikeouts. He took a 2-1 lead over the White Sox into the sixth inning of the Tigers' season finale on Sept. 29, before leaving the game with tightness in his neck and right shoulder.
A subsequent visit with a specialist showed no structural damage in Garcia's shoulder, but he has approached his offseason work slowly as a precaution. He has been throwing long toss while he readies to pitch winter ball in his native Venezuela in front of Major League scouts. Garcia's agent, Peter Greenberg, wrote Wednesday in an e-mail that Garcia hopes to make his first start for the Venezuelan team Magallanes early next month.
Garcia, who owns a 118-77 record to go with 1,716 2/3 innings over his 10-year career, stated his interest last month in possibly returning to Detroit. Greenberg said they'll listen if and when the Tigers wish to talk. Tigers officials expressed interest near season's end, though the shape of Garcia's arm will undoubtedly play a role when he gets back on a mound next month.
Teams have until 15 days after the World Series ends to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents. After that, other clubs can present contract offers and sign players.
Jones announced his retirement last month, ending a 16-year Major League career that saw him compile 319 career saves. That total ranks 14th on the all-time list, while his 235 saves as a Tiger stands as the franchise record.
Other Tigers eligible for free agency who have yet to file include shortstop Edgar Renteria, whose $12 million contract option for 2009 was formally declined on Thursday. Also on the list are Kenny Rogers, Kyle Farnsworth, Casey Fossum and Vance Wilson.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.