BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Tigers are likely to leave this week's General Managers Meetings without a contract offer to a free agent, and maybe no formal trade offer with another club. In the case of Joakim Soria, at least, they've laid groundwork for a potential return.
Tigers officials met Wednesday with Soria's agent, Oscar Suarez, and while neither side talked dollars, according to an industry source, they expressed mutual interest in bringing Soria back to Detroit, where he saved 23 games this year before being dealt to Pittsburgh at the Trade Deadline in July.
The two sides are expected to resume talks next week.
Soria is attracting strong interest on a free-agent market deep in relievers but thin in proven closers. His 202 career saves rank second among current free agents to another former Tiger, Fernando Rodney. Soria, however, is younger; he won't turn 32 until May.
Detroit has also shown interest in free agent Darren O'Day, a shutdown setup man who saved 12 games over the last three seasons in Baltimore, and is believed to have checked in with the Reds regarding Aroldis Chapman, who's expected to draw a higher price in prospects than the Tigers would want to pay for a reliever one year away from free agency. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reported that the Tigers also have had contact with the Padres about Craig Kimbrel.
"There seems to be some guys available in the closing market," general manager Al Avila said. "I think because there's been so many GM changes and there's so few closers available -- I would say there's two closers on the free-agent market -- that [teams] are experimenting as far as what they might be able to get back as far as their closers. That's what we're gauging, too, showing interest and gauging what that would cost, things of that nature."
Asked if an emerging trade market for closers was encouraging, Avila said, "I don't know. It could be encouraging and all of a sudden, it can be disappointing because the asking price can be so high that there's no way. So, I can't say encouraging. I can say intriguing."
However, the Tigers have a familiarity with Soria, and vice versa. He's expected to focus his attention on contending teams, in part for a chance to get back to the postseason, and in part to find stability after being traded in July of back-to-back seasons. That said, he's more likely to take an opportunity to close games.
A proven late-inning reliever is one of the top priorities for Avila as he tries to revamp a bullpen that struggled and stumbled for most of the year. When asked what he might do if he doesn't acquire a closer, Avila acted incredulous.
"What am I going to do if we don't get a closer? We'll come up with a closer," Avila said. "Somebody's going to close the games, I can tell you that. We might bring back Todd Jones, but somebody's going to close."
They won't actually bring back Jones. They might bring back Soria.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.