Opinion

The Star’s Andy McCullough ranks his top 10 MLB free agents

Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer is among the most sought-after names in baseball free agency this offseason.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer is among the most sought-after names in baseball free agency this offseason. AP

The Star’s Andy McCullough ranks his top 10 free agents this offseason:

▪ 1. Max Scherzer, SP: The Mizzou product gambled on himself when he turned down a six-year, $144 million deal from Detroit in the spring. He didn’t match his AL Cy Young campaign from the previous year, but he remains a right-handed force ready to command a nine-figure deal.

▪ 2. Jon Lester, SP: He appeared bound for an extension in Boston before talks broke down in the spring. He followed up with one of his best years as a professional, with a career-low 2.46 ERA in a career-high 219 2/3 innings.

▪ 3. James Shields, SP: Shields lived up to his end of the bargain during his two seasons as a Royal. Now he must face questions about his age (33 in 2015) and his rough postseason in free agency. He still figures to make plenty.

▪ 4. Victor Martinez, DH: At a time when hitting is so hard to find, Martinez is an asset, even as a limited fielder who turns 36 in December. He led the American League with a .409 OBP and a .974 OPS in 2014.

▪ 5. Hanley Ramirez, SS/3B: He may be the biggest enigma in this class. He resembled a superstar during an abbreviated season in 2013. But injuries slowed him again this past season. He’s averaged only 116 games a year since 2011.

▪ 6. Yasmany Tomas, OF: He could be the next great Cuban slugger. He is only 24 and possesses tremendous power. His contract could exceed the deals doled out to countrymen Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu.

▪ 7. Russell Martin, C: Martin had already earned raves for his ability as a defender and a game-caller. But his resurgence at the plate in 2014, with a .402 OBP, should only increase his value.

▪ 8. Nelson Cruz, OF: Handcuffed by both a drug suspension and a qualifying offer last winter, Cruz managed only a one-year deal with the Orioles. He responded by bashing 40 homers. He’ll get a multi-year pact this time around.

▪ 9. Melky Cabrera, OF: Like Cruz, Cabrera carries the Biogenesis stigma. Also like Cruz, Cabrera bounced back with a strong campaign in 2014. He’s a solid defender and a versatile hitter. The Royals have interest, but his price may be too high.

▪ 10. Ervin Santana, SP: He may be the most reliable pitcher on the market outside of the leading trio. The Royals are interested in a reunion with Santana, who shined at Kauffman Stadium in 2013.

Andy McCullough, rmccullough@kcstar.com

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