The 35-year-old has spent the last two years trying to come back from elbow injuries that have led to ligament replacement surgery in each of the last two summers. He was working towards a return this past spring, making slow progress, before hitting a limit in his rehab. A follow-up exam showed that the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow had not fully healed from the first surgery, forcing another procedure.
Wilson last played in the Majors in 2006, when he batted .283 with nine doubles, five home runs and 18 RBIs in 56 games. He signed a two-year, $1.9 million contract in August of that year, a deal which expired at the end of this season.
Wilson wrote in an e-mail earlier this week that his rehab process is going significantly better this time around. He hopes to begin throwing again in about a month, which would put him ahead of the timetable he had a year ago.
"My rehab isn't even comparable to last year," Wilson said.
Wilson has expressed interest in rejoining the Tigers, who head into this offseason in need of catching help. Prospect Dusty Ryan, who made his Major League debut in September, is currently the only catcher on the 40-man roster with Brandon Inge set to resume his everyday role at third base.
After the last two years, Wilson will likely have to prove himself healthy. In the meantime, the Tigers will pursue catching help on other fronts to either handle the bulk of the work or platoon alongside Ryan. Still, Wilson is hoping for a shot.
Wilson is the third Tigers player to file for free agency, joining right-hander Freddy Garcia and the retired reliever Todd Jones. Remaining eligible players have until Nov. 13 to file. For the Tigers, those eligible include shortstop Edgar Renteria, whose contract option was declined earlier this week, as well as Kenny Rogers, Kyle Farnsworth and Casey Fossum.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.