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Inbox: Tigers in market for top-tier free agent?

Beat reporter Jason Beck fields questions from fans
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Second inbox of the new year. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training three weeks from Tuesday.

The Tigers have money, do you think they could try and sign a big free agent or two and try to be competitive, and if things don't work out, they can trade them at the Deadline for more prospects?
--@keith_szymanski

DETROIT -- Second inbox of the new year. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training three weeks from Tuesday.

The Tigers have money, do you think they could try and sign a big free agent or two and try to be competitive, and if things don't work out, they can trade them at the Deadline for more prospects?
--@keith_szymanski

I think the Tigers could sign a low-risk deal with a free agent or two over the next few weeks once the market finally begins to move and pitchers try to get into camps. But as far as a big contract with one of the top free agents, like what they did years ago with Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, I'd be shocked. They're certainly not in the business of multiyear contracts at this point after laboring to free up payroll over the past several months. Anything they do the rest of this offseason I would expect to be one-year contracts or non-roster invites.

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As for next winter, we'll see. The Tigers are in a much better situation on payroll at that point, with just Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann under guaranteed contracts, but they'll also have prospects nearing the point of competing for jobs on the big league roster.

Early prediction on starting five?
--@Mattyshack

If everybody gets through Spring Training healthy, I would expect a pretty familiar group, with Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris joining Mike Fiers. But like you said, it's early, with the Tigers still possibly bringing in another starter to give Boyd and Norris a push and provide injury protection in case Fulmer or Zimmermann need more time for whatever reason. Ryan Carpenter will also be giving a push, having signed a Major League contract early in the offseason.

Video: Fulmer on his rehab, playing for Tigers in 2018

Who is the underrated player that should make the 2018 team?
--@TommyArse

Not sure if there really is one candidate, but there's a decent opportunity for Ronny Rodriguez, a non-roster invite the Tigers signed from the Indians' organization last month. He played every position but left field and catcher last year at Triple-A Columbus, and he posted a .778 OPS and 17 home runs. The Tigers, meanwhile, have a need for a utility player with Andrew Romine gone and Dixon Machado sliding to second base to take over for Ian Kinsler. Pete Kozma will be in camp, too, but he's a few years older and hasn't done as much at the plate the past few seasons.

Second base is Machado's, right? Who would even be the next in line for it? With Romine gone, who will be our bench players?
--@Nick_Fritsch

The Tigers want Machado getting at-bats after spending most of last year on the bench. Unless Jose Iglesias is injured or traded, Machado will be getting those at-bats at second. Rodriguez and Kozma would likely get a chance if second base suddenly opened up, though they could also bring in another candidate under that scenario. Dawel Lugo has a chance to be the Tigers' second baseman of the future, but he has yet to play above Double-A.

Video: Beck discusses Machado's utility role for the Tigers

Do you think the Tigers would move Miggy if he has a bounce-back year like JV did?
--@SamuelLNielsen

It certainly would make Cabrera more appealing on the trade market, but I think Cabrera's contract makes any trade much more complicated than what the Tigers put together for Justin Verlander. Detroit is paying part of Verlander's salary this year and next. Cabrera is under contract through 2023, so anything involving splitting up his salary between clubs would impact Detroit's payroll for much longer. I'm not saying it can't be done, or that the Tigers wouldn't pursue a deal, but it's a bigger challenge.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

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