And once trade talks finally do pick up in the final weeks of the offseason, it sounds unlikely that top prospect Jacob Turner will be a serious part of them.
"Our plan hasn't changed," Dombrowski said. "We're in a situation where we really have been consistent all along. We like our young guys. We feel that one of them will step up and be our fifth starter. Somehow [our approach] has been mistaken."
The Tigers were linked to rumors concerning talks with the Cubs regarding Garza last weekend. One report said the Tigers had shown interest in Garza, while others said the two teams had active discussions, and the Tigers were perceived to be among the front-runners to complete a deal, mainly with the presence of Turner.
Dombrowski said the Tigers have not called about any starting pitchers on the trade market. Any conversations on veterans starters, he said, have been initiated by other clubs.
"We are not looking," he said. "There are some guys that are out there and are very good and clubs have called us about them. But we have four veteran starters, and sometimes you have to break in young pitching."
In a lot of cases, those calls have centered around Turner, Detroit's top prospect -- and the seventh-best prospect in baseball entering 2012, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The 20-year-old right-hander made his Major League debut last July, then made two more starts for the Tigers in September.
Turner, whose 4-5 record and 3.44 ERA between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in 2011 belied stronger secondary stats, is expected to get a chance at winning that fifth spot. So is left-hander Drew Smyly, who went 11-6 with a 2.07 ERA last year between Erie and Class A Lakeland, as are lefties Duane Below and Adam Wilk following strong stints last summer in Detroit's bullpen.
"We feel we have four solid starters. That's a good way to break a young guy in," Dombrowski said. "But they have to be ready to do so and take the step up, and you never know if a guy's ready."
If the Tigers add somebody, Dombrowski has said, it's most likely going to be a veteran who can double as a reliever under a short-term deal. Dombrowski said he doesn't know yet whether that'll be easier to do with a trade or by signing a free agent, but he expects the market to soon become clearer as the offseason winds down.
"There's a lot of guys out there this year," Dombrowski said. "It's a late-developing market."
They'll still listen on bigger-name starters, including those with long-term commitments, Dombrowski said, but they're not looking. And the inquiries that have been made, he said, haven't gone far.
"Probably the only guy we had serious conversations on was Gio Gonzalez," he said, "and we just weren't prepared to pay the price. Other than that, we really haven't talked about a starting pitcher."
The A's eventually traded the left-handed Gonzalez to the Nationals last month for a package of prospects. Oakland reportedly wanted not only Turner, but other top prospects, possibly including fellow first-round draft pick Nick Castellanos.
Conversations could change this month as trade talks pick up following the holiday hiatus. But at this point, the Tigers plan on having Turner and others compete for the fifth-starter's spot.
And while Dombrowski won't call any of his top prospects untouchable, a term he rarely uses on anybody, he made it clear they aren't looking to deal Turner. That doesn't mean Turner isn't available for the right deal, but it indicates they aren't going out and shopping him for a veteran starter.
"People have called and asked about him," Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski also said that Al Alburquerque's recent elbow surgery hasn't put them back on the market for bullpen help. The Tigers signed Octavio Dotel last month with Alburquerque's off-and-on injury problems in mind, and they believe they can get through Alburquerque's loss with the arms they have.
They still have the door open to re-sign Joel Zumaya if he's willing to sign a Minor League deal. At this point, though, Dombrowski said nothing has changed on that front.