The Phillies and veteran right-handed starter Zack Wheeler agreed to a new contract extension on Monday that will keep him in Philadelphia through the 2027 season. Wheeler's new three-year pact is worth $126 million, according to CBS Sports HQ MLB Insider Jim Bowden, making it the highest average annual value in Phillies history. Additionally, Wheeler's new deal serves as the highest AAV for an extension in Major League Baseball history, and the fourth highest overall, behind the free-agent deals signed in recent winters by Shohei Ohtani, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer.

Wheeler's extension is historic in another sense: his latest piece of business with the Phillies dashes any dreams of other teams pursuing him this winter. When we here at CBS Sports offered our far-too-early ranking of the top 20 free agents in the 2024-25 class back in January, Wheeler checked in fourth overall and second among starting pitchers, behind Juan Soto, Alex Bregman, and Corbin Burnes

With Wheeler coming off the board, we figured this would serve as a good occasion to provide a new look at the top five starting pitchers in the upcoming free-agent class -- as well as one wild card whose stock seems to be trending in the right direction. 

1. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Orioles

Burnes has changed teams since we ranked him as the top potential free-agent starter for the 2024-25 offseason, moving from Milwaukee to Baltimore as part of a larger trade. It doesn't matter. His combination of youth, health, and track record is unrivaled in this class. To recap: he's finished in the top 10 of Cy Young Award voting four winters in a row; he's averaged more than 30 starts the last three seasons; and he won't celebrate his 30th birthday until the later stages of the postseason. A lot can happen in eight months' time: he might get hurt, slip up in performance, or work out a deal with Baltimore's new ownership group to keep him in town. You can only work with the information you have in hand, however, and that information lands him at the top.

2. Max Fried, LHP, Braves

Fried started just 14 times last year, snapping a recent run of durability that saw him start 28-plus times in three consecutive full seasons. He has a chance to be a polarizing free agent based on his workloads. He's averaged more than six frames per pop just once, giving him a single season with more than 170 innings to his name. Still, there's no denying Fried's effectiveness -- and besides, that's where the game is headed anyway, so is it fair to penalize a pitcher for serving as the blueprint? Based on Blake Snell's winter, we suppose fairness isn't part of the equation with matters of money.

3. Justin Verlander, RHP, Astros
4. Max Scherzer, RHP, Rangers

We're pairing Verlander and Scherzer because they have a lot in common. Both are highly decorated old veterans currently dealing with injury woes. (Scherzer will miss the first chunk of the season; Verlander is hoping to be ready for Opening Day.) They could ride off into the sunset at year's end and nobody would blame them. If either/both return for the 2025 season, expect it to be on a short, lucrative contract. Our lists are based in part on AAV forecasts, making them candidates to rank highly.

5. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers

Buehler has not pitched in a regular season game since June 2022 because of elbow woes that precipitated Tommy John surgery. It's to be seen when, precisely, he changes that. Buehler continues to throw, but he's not expected to be ready for Opening Day. The Dodgers have thus far refused to put a timetable on his return, making this a wait-and-see game. Buehler is a big talent, a two-time All-Star who had a career-best season in 2021, but there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding him at this point.

Wild card: Shane Bieber, RHP, Guardians

We noted in January that Bieber's profile contained various red flags, including a fastball that had waned in velocity and effectiveness. It's an encouraging sign, then, that his heater has shown improved oomph so far this spring. We know, we know. We'll see if those gains last into the regular season. We'll also see if the elbow issues that sidelined him for more than two months last year crop back up. A healthy, reinvigorated Bieber would stand a great chance of moving up the board.