By TOM GAGE, The Detroit News
A major mystery of the Tigers' upcoming off-season may already have been solved. They want Brandon Inge back as their third baseman.
General manager Dave Dombrowski said Sunday that he's discussed a multi-year contract with Inge and that he's hopeful of bringing him back.
"We've made him an offer and will see if we can get something done," Dombrowski said. "We'd like to have him back. Usually if there's desire by both parties, it has a way of working out."
Inge is "optimistic" about staying with the Tigers. "I'm happy they've already approached me," he said.
Dombrowski also said he's told Jeremy Bonderman, Gerald Laird and Johnny Damon that the club has no plans of re-signing them -- although Bonderman could be invited to spring training if he doesn't land a contract elsewhere.
Dombrowski said the team will not pick up Magglio Ordonez's $15 million option for next year, but is "open-minded" about bringing him back.
"We have not closed the door by any means," Dombrowski said. "Magglio expressed a strong desire to remain a Tiger. We'll just see what takes place over the winter. He's a possibility, but by no means for sure.
"We need a middle-of-the-order bat that can drive in runs. We have to have that. It's most likely going to be either an outfielder, DH or both -- a left-handed bat if we could."
Dombrowski identified Ryan Raburn as a "key component of our outfield" for 201l. "That leaves one spot open."
About Brennan Boesch possibly winning that one spot, Dombrowski said, "Is it guaranteed? No. He'll go to spring training and we'll just see who's in camp with us at that time."
The team is interested in bringing back Jhonny Peralta as its starting shortstop and is working toward retaining him.
"We don't know what we will do with his ($7.25 million) option, but would like him back next year as our shortstop," said Dombrowski. "At second base, we'll pretty much go with what we have."
Earlier Sunday, manager Jim Leyland said he plans to start Phil Coke next year, and that a middle-of-the-lineup bat and "shoring up the bullpen" are the team's greatest needs for next year.
Although saying that Armando Galarraga "could be that guy," Dombrowski was non-committal about a fifth starter. "We're not really sure what we're going to do."
In a far-ranging season-ending discussion before Sunday's game, Dombrowski, although unsigned beyond the 2011 season, doesn't think his job is on the line going into next year -- as Leyland has said about his own job.
"I feel secure," Dombrowski said. "I have a contract for next year and a good relationship with ownership. I've never really worried about that. If you have confidence in your ability, work hard, do a good job, things tend to work out."
On the decision to try to bring Inge back, Dombrowski said, "The biggest appeal is that he's an outstanding defensive third baseman. He's been great for us.
"He gives you some offense, but you have to look at the numbers he's put up and think that's what you are going to get. You always used to look at third base as a power-producing position. There just aren't that many guys who fit that mold anymore."
About not bringing Damon back, Dombrowski said, "We've spoken to him and told him we're very appreciative of what he's done. But with the spot we're looking for, we told him we won't pursue trying to re-sign him."
And about Bonderman, Dombrowski said, "We've seen him grow up, we love him, but at this point we don't anticipate pursuing him. If he wants to keep pitching next year, and nothing has happened for him, we're not closing the door. But we'll not actively try to sign him."
The Tigers also have decided to "give Alex Avila the primary responsibilities as our catcher," said Dombrowski. "We think he's ready to do it. Although they're hard to find, we'll look to supplement that with a free-agent catcher, who hits right-handed."
Damon said he's appreciative that the Tigers have already told him about their plans.
"I know I don't fit into the picture," he said. "But at least I go home knowing what my situation is. The other times I've been a free agent, I didn't know this early, so this is good."