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Marquee names lead list of top 25 free agents

Frontline starters available in Scherzer, Lester; Hanley, V-Mart also set to enter market
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Hot Stove Tracker

Even as the familiar celebrations continue in San Francisco, it's time to look ahead.

Hot Stove Tracker

Even as the familiar celebrations continue in San Francisco, it's time to look ahead.

The regular season and postseason have ended, but the Hot Stove season is upon us.

Here's a top-25 list of free agents, plus a few more names to kick around as teams begin to try to get better than the Giants.

1. Max Scherzer, RHP: Everything is adding up to this being the latest rendition of the monster starting pitcher contract. Health? Check. Scherzer has made at least 30 starts in each of the past six seasons. Performance? Check. He won the American League Cy Young Award with a 21-3 season in 2013 and was 18-5 with a career-high 252 strikeouts in a career-high 220 1/3 innings for Detroit in 2014. Age? He'll still be 30 in April. This all makes a mondo six- or seven-year, nine-figure deal palatable for a club more than willing to spend enough to sign him.

2. Jon Lester, LHP: The A's went all in by trading Yoenis Cespedes for Lester and Jonny Gomes on July 31, and while Lester did his part, going 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA down the stretch, the A's were eliminated in the Wild Card Game. Now we'll see how much money this 30-year-old playoff-tested veteran will fetch on an open market that always desires top-of-the-line starting pitching. One intriguing possibility is the Mariners, who would like another stud starter and have some money to spend. Lester grew up in the Seattle area.

3. Hanley Ramirez, SS: He'll be 31 in December, so he's young enough, and when he's right, he's good enough to rank as the top position player on this year's market. There are questions, however. Is he a shortstop or a third baseman as he ages, or does he need to transition into another role? Is he a team-first player who is willing to adapt to any system? The last and most important question regarding this three-time All-Star: Can he stay healthy? Ramirez has had more than 500 at-bats only once in the past four seasons.

4. Victor Martinez, 1B/DH: What a great time for someone to put up the best offensive numbers of his career. Martinez did exactly that with a line of .335/.409/.565 to go with 32 homers, 103 RBIs and only 42 strikeouts. He'll be 36 in December, though, and without the ability to play many games in the field, it would appear that Martinez would be limited to the American League.

5. James Shields, RHP: OK, so maybe the "Big Game" name didn't really pan out in the postseason. Shields was very hittable in October, putting up a pedestrian 6.12 ERA. But his value to a starting staff is undeniable, he assumed the mantel of Royals ace the past two years with aplomb, and while he might not figure to be a No. 1 for some teams, Shields, who turns 33 in December, remains a solid addition to any staff and will command plenty of years and dollars to do just that.

6. Nelson Cruz, OF/DH: Cruz ended up being one of the best free-agent signings of 2014, spinning a one-year, $8 million deal into pure gold for the Orioles. It turned out to be a great move for Cruz, who blasted 40 homers and drove in 108 runs, both career-high totals, and now is likely to get a multiyear pact and a lot more money.

7. Yasmany Tomas, OF: Anyone who watched Jose Abreu star for the White Sox this year has to be intrigued by Tomas, a 24-year-old Cuban who stands 6-foot-4, weighs 240 pounds and reportedly can hit a ball a long way. After countryman Rusney Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox over the summer, following up on Abreu's six-year, $68 million deal with Chicago last winter, it looks like Tomas will earn a nice payday.

8. Melky Cabrera, OF: The line of .301/.351/.458 that he put up in his final year of his contract with Toronto will certainly play on the free-agent market.

9. Nick Markakis, OF: The Orioles are reportedly in talks to re-sign him, but if that falls through, a team will jump on Markakis' combination of excellent defense, ability to get on base and occasional home run. That is still a rare and attractive package, especially in a soon-to-be-31-year-old body, and it will justify his place on this list.

10. Pablo Sandoval, 3B: The robust third baseman once again showed how valuable he can be, particularly in October, but a Sandoval signing does not come without its share of red flags. Some teams will shy away from going long term with a free swinger whose OPS has declined in each of the past three seasons, while others surely will have their concerns about how his physique will evolve. Then again, the Giants, perfectly happy with the Panda who helped them win three World Series in the past five seasons, might swoop in and re-sign the 28-year-old.

Video: Duquette on Giants' offseason priorities

11. Russell Martin, C: He's the best catcher on the market and a team leader to boot. He should land multiple years.

12. Adam LaRoche, 1B: He'll turn 35 next week, but LaRoche can still hit (26 homers, 92 RBIs in 2014) and play a little first base.

13. Michael Cuddyer, 1B/3B/OF: Coors Field effect or not, he can still hit, and he's revered in the clubhouse. A deal of two years or longer seems a certainty, even at the age of 35.

14. Kenta Maeda, RHP: It's uncertain whether this Japanese ace will be posted, but if so, he'll get a good deal. He doesn't possess the stuff to put him on the level of Masahiro Tanaka, reportedly, but the right-hander is 26 and has a career 2.43 ERA in Nippon Professional Baseball.

15. Ervin Santana, RHP: The Braves are expected to give him a $15.3 million qualifying offer, which he might take after declining one from Kansas City last year and then waiting in limbo before signing in March. Santana did well enough for Atlanta, striking out 179 batters in 196 innings and pitching to a 3.95 ERA.

16. Aramis Ramirez, 3B: The Brewers haven't decided if they will pick up their end of his $14 million mutual option. If not, he's a reasonably productive offensive player at the age of 36.

17. Francisco Liriano, LHP: His ERA and walks went up from his stellar 2013 season, but so did his strikeouts. Liriano is still an attractive left-handed starting option and should command two or three years this time around.

18. Jason Hammel, RHP: He's a good high-strikeout option for the third or fourth spot in a contending rotation and should get a multiyear deal.

19 Brandon McCarthy, RHP: The same goes for McCarthy, who looked excellent late in the season for the Yankees and is only 31.

20. Jake Peavy, RHP: He sparkled for San Francisco after the Trade Deadline deal brought him to the Giants from Boston, and he won his second World Series ring in a row following midseason trades.

21. Chase Headley, 3B: It's been a big dropoff at the plate since his breakout season of 2012, but Headley, 30, showed some life in his transition to the AL after his midseason deal to the Yankees.

22. David Robertson, RHP: Here's your headlining "established closer" of the 2015 free-agent class. Robertson replaced Mariano Rivera ably for New York, saving 39 games, and is poised to land a deal from a club with ninth-inning needs.

23. Andrew Miller, LHP: Over the past three seasons, Miller has evolved from lefty relief specialist to dominant bullpen star. A multiyear deal is not a stretch at all for a guy who should be viewed as a closer-in-waiting … or even a closer in 2015.

24. Francisco Rodriguez, RHP: K-Rod saved 44 games for the Brewers after waiting until February to sign. He shouldn't have to wait that long this time around.

25. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: The .694 OPS in 2014 doesn't inspire much confidence, but Cabrera plays a demanding position, hit 14 homers and isn't far removed from much better offensive seasons.

Other possibilities:

Position players: Alex Rios, OF; Torii Hunter, OF; Michael Morse, IF/OF; Adam Lind, 1B/DH; Billy Butler, 1B/DH; Colby Rasmus, OF; Delmon Young, OF; Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH; Yozzen Cuesta, OF; Jed Lowrie, SS; Stephen Drew, SS; Alberto Callaspo, IF; Ichiro Suzuki, OF; Nick Hundley, C; Ryan Ludwick, OF; Josh Willingham, OF; Emilio Bonifacio, IF/OF; Nori Aoki, OF; Nate Schierholtz, OF.

Starters: Edinson Volquez, RHP; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP; Justin Masterson, RHP; Brett Anderson, LHP; Brandon Morrow, RHP; Josh Johnson, RHP; Aaron Harang, RHP; Kyle Kendrick, RHP; Gavin Floyd, RHP; A.J. Burnett, RHP; J.A. Happ, LHP; Roberto Hernandez, RHP; Chad Billingsley, RHP; Misael Siverio, RHP; Wandy Rodriguez, LHP; Ryan Vogelsong, RHP.

Relievers: Rafael Soriano, RHP; Pat Neshek, RHP; Jason Motte, RHP; Joakim Soria, RHP; LaTroy Hawkins, RHP; Casey Janssen, RHP; Sergio Romo, RHP; Jason Grilli, RHP; Burke Badenhop, RHP; Joba Chamberlain, RHP; Andrew Bailey, RHP; Luke Gregerson, RHP; Matt Lindstrom, RHP; Jesse Crain, RHP; Jim Johnson, RHP; Luke Hochevar, RHP; Craig Breslow, LHP; Sean Burnett, LHP; Joe Beimel, LHP.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nelson Cruz, Jon Lester, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Max Scherzer, James Shields