Troy Percival signed. Owner Mike Ilitch was ready to spend. The team was coming off a 29-game improvement, had a pair of All Stars and a budding rotation. Needless to say, optimism was high.
And then . . . nothing. The fans waited, they heard rumors, but still nothing. No more Tigers, as all the top free agents fell off the board, one by one.
But with only one major free agent left available, the Tigers appear ready to land him. According to Newsday and Danny Kobbler of the Ann Arbor News, the Tigers and right fielder Magglio Ordonez are close to coming to terms on a 5-year deal worth an estimated $75 million. It is believed the deal will also include an "out-clause", allowing the Tigers to void the contract if Ordonez misses a certain number of days due to his left knee, which forced him to miss most of the 2004 season.
Ordonez worked out for the Tigers in southern California on Thursday, and it is believed that negotiations went from there.
The news is somewhat shocking, after midweek speculation that little was happening because the Tigers weren't willing to completely break the bank for Ordonez, and he wouldn't be willing to come under any other circumstances.
Possibly part of the improvement in the status of the talks could involve the rest of the parties involved. Besides the Tigers, the Baltimore Orioles, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers were all rumored to have interest in the 31-year old slugger.
But Texas decided they weren't going to spend the money on Ordonez and wouldn't pursue him.
Then the Cubs finally traded Sammy Sosa (a necessity to open up money and a spot to go after Ordonez), but they traded him to the Orioles, eliminating them from contention. The deal also involved the Cubs sending so much cash to the Orioles, that they elected to go with a cheaper alternative in Jeromy Burnitz.
That left only the Mets as a possible suitor besides the Tigers, but the Mets were never interested in a long-term deal for Ordonez, something he was still commanding. Likewise, the Mets would have to trade a current member of their outfield (either Cliff Floyd or Mike Cameron) to open up a spot before they could pursue Ordonez.
Rumor had it the Mets, who were initially supposed to be at the workout Thursday, didn't show, a strong indication that they wouldn't be pursuing Ordonez.
So now, the Tigers appear set to ink Ordonez to a 5-year deal, a deal that will likely make Ordonez a Tiger for the rest of his career (this is of course assuming Ordonez and his left knee stay healthy). After months of waiting, the Tigers appear to finally have their man.