Two winters ago, Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila had a blank check to pursue free agents to bolster the club for another run at a World Series.

He spent more than $250 million, mostly on Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton. He also added role players like Mike Pelfrey, Mark Lowe and Mike Aviles.

The spending spree is unlikely to be repeated -- perhaps ever, and certainly not this year.

"Free agency is going to be a little different this year than we've been accustomed to in the past," Avila said. "We're going to be looking for Major League free agents that are maybe bargains. I guess you could call them that. You may not see a free agent signing until maybe January."

The Tigers will be looking for those fringe players who are still hunting for jobs in the late winter and early spring. They might be signed on a cheap, one-year Major League deal, or perhaps a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to spring training and plenty of incentives.

"Hopefully we can find a diamond in the rough somewhere. Or maybe lightning in a bottle would be a better term," Avila said.

Why bother with free agents at all on a rebuilding club that was dead last in the American League in 2017? The Tigers don't want a repeat of September, when the team was embarrassingly bad.