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Tigers ready to begin free-agent shopping

Tigers ready to begin free-agent shopping

Tigers ready to begin free-agent shopping
DETROIT -- Let the free-agent shopping begin.

With the World Series now shrinking in the rearview mirror, the Tigers joined other Major League clubs this week in turning their focus toward 2013. That begins in earnest this weekend, when teams can officially begin negotiating with other clubs' free agents.

That doesn't mean there'll be a flurry of deals this weekend, or really any. This isn't the NBA or the NFL. The only free-agent deal the Tigers have done in the opening hours of open bidding in recent years was Jhonny Peralta's contract two years ago, and his re-signing had been expected for a few days before that.

The Tigers would bless their luck if they could do the same with this year's attempted re-signing, Anibal Sanchez, but barring a miracle, it's not going to happen. Sanchez has enough value in a market desperate for starting pitching that, though he wouldn't mind staying in Detroit, it behooves him to listen to other teams.

Because Sanchez was traded midseason, Detroit isn't eligible to receive a Draft pick if he signs elsewhere. The Tigers' exclusive negotiating rights with Sanchez expire Friday night.

"I know it's not going to be an easy pursuit by any means. I'd love to have Anibal Sanchez back if we could," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said earlier this week.

Dombrowski is expected to give quite a push to try to re-sign Sanchez. Whether he's successful depends as much on the rest of the market as it does on his own offer.

"Do I think it helps that we had Sanchez [this year]? My answer would be yes," Dombrowski said. "But I'm also practical enough to know that in other ways, no, because when you get to this point, probably offers being equal, it helps you. Offers that blow you away, it doesn't really make much difference and really what ends up happening is you've been through this process before, it's the player's right, they can do what they want. You thank them for what they did, and if they get an offer that you think, 'Hey, how can you turn it down?' you wish them well.

"I'm not sure where it's going to lead with him but I do know that he's a very sought-after guy and people have to make their decisions on what they're going to do."

The Tigers could have been eligible for compensation for fellow free agents Delmon Young and Jose Valverde, neither of whom they have interest in re-signing. However, the qualifying offers Detroit would've needed to make to them to be eligible for the picks -- $13.3 million on a one-year deal, equaling the average of the highest-paid 125 players in the game -- would've been big enough that the players might well have accepted, leaving the Tigers with two players they don't intend to keep for next season at salaries they don't want to pay.

Thus, the Tigers made no qualifying offers by Friday's 5 p.m. ET deadline. The good news for them is that corner outfielders they could pursue didn't receive qualifying offers, either. Thus, the Tigers could sign somebody like Torii Hunter, Melky Cabrera, Cody Ross or Angel Pagan without giving up a Draft pick.

The Yankees extended a qualifying offer to right fielder Nick Swisher, but Swisher's reported contract wishes were expected to be beyond the Tigers' range anyway.

Starting Saturday, Detroit can start talking contract parameters with free agents other than its own.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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