DETROIT -- With much of the Tigers' offseason needs filled, they'll turn their attention to the other looming challenge of their winter with a slew of arbitration-eligible players needing deals. For now, they appear likely to tackle them all.
Major League teams face a Friday midnight ET deadline for tendered contracts to their players. Those who aren't tendered contracts immediately become free agents who can sign with any club, including their former team. But while teams tend to use the date to non-tender the arbitration-eligible players they don't want, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday morning he doesn't anticipate having any non-tenders.
This week's trades for Gerald Laird and Edwin Jackson bumped the Tigers' total of arbitration-eligible players to nine, nearly all of them key parts of the roster. Staff ace Justin Verlander is most prominent name, and the Tigers are expected to explore a long-term contract with him. They'll also likely look into one-year deals with the rest shortly to avoid the arbitration process.
Other arbitration eligibles include Fernando Rodney, Ramon Santiago, Bobby Seay, Marcus Thames and Joel Zumaya. The one Tigers player who would appear to be a non-tender candidate is reliever Aquilino Lopez, who pitched a career-high 78 2/3 innings as a long reliever and spent all but one month on Detroit's Major League roster.
The Tigers still have one spot open on their 40-man roster, and they have yet to formally announce an agreement with shortstop Adam Everett, so they don't necessarily need the roster room.
Of greater relevance for the Tigers will be the list of players whom other teams non-tender. That could include Dodgers reliever Takashi Saito, who could join the list of free-agent closers if he can't reach agreement on a contract with Los Angeles. The Tigers are still in the market for a closer after missing in their attempts to trade for J.J. Putz.
Even if nobody on the non-tender list fits the Tigers' liking, Dombrowski believes simply getting through the process will help move along the market.
"Sometimes people will think, 'We like a guy with a club, but he might be non-tendered, so we'll just wait and see what happens,'" Dombrowski said. "And I think it will sort of push forward some things next week with clubs talking with one another."
If the Tigers have anyone who fits that category, it's Thames, the slugging corner outfielder who's in line for a raise from his $1,275,000 salary after hitting 25 home runs in just 316 at-bats in 2008. The Tigers are believed to have explored trade talks on Thames, but while Detroit's budget might not fit a big raise for Thames, his production makes him a strong candidate to be tendered a contract.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.