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Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila speaks with the media on a variety of topics after Ron Gardenhire is introduced as manager at Comerica Park on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.
George Sipple, Detroit Free Press

ORLANDO, Fla. – It seemed weird, how, as general managers and agents from across Major League Baseball packed into the Waldorf Astoria during this week’s GM meetings – with many meetings about free agent players scheduled – the Tigers were a bit of an afterthought.

In previous seasons, with their free spending and $200 million payrolls, the team was a talking point when it came to free agency.

This year, not so much.

The Tigers will be focusing on pitching in free agency, GM Al Avila said, likely targeting at least one starting pitcher and a pair of relievers.

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“We definitely need some pitching help,” Avila said. “Ideally, probably add a couple of starters but if you talk to the other 29 clubs here, they’re all looking for starting pitchers. If you talk to the other 29 clubs here, they’re all looking for bullpen. Every single one of them.”

And with a losing season likely in 2018 – and years beyond that – the Tigers aren’t the most desirable destination, especially without an impetus to add money to a payroll which has been significantly slashed. Still, they could represent a nice choice for lower-tier free agents who are trying to rebuild their value.

In turn, bounce back seasons from those players – especially if signed to one-year deals – could represent a chance for the Tigers to net more prospects at next season’s trade deadline.

More: MLB free agents: Top 73 players available

“It’s one of those things where pitching, it’s the thing,” Avila said. “It’s hard to get. So when you get the good ones, you have to keep them.”

Some starting pitchers to keep an eye on this offseason: Right-handers Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Matt Garza, Andrew Cashner and perhaps even an old fan favorite, Doug Fister.

The Tigers currently have two lefties in the starting rotation – Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd – but available lefties who could make sense for the Tigers include Jaime Garcia, Wade Miley and Derek Holland. A big upside play would be Francisco Liriano, who most recently pitched in relief for the World Series-winning Astros, but made his name in the starting rotation.

Though the team will certainly keep their eye on the position player market of free agents – especially lefty hitters – Avila made it clear pitching is the team’s first priority, and for good reason: In September, the Tigers were unable to get enough outs or sufficient innings and if that trend continues into 2018, it will be a longer season than even they expect.

Contact Anthony Fenech: afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Download our Tigers Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!