Unorthodox MLB hot stove season has been profitable for some players

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In one way, the way that most tries its customers’ patience, this Hot Stove season has proven utterly predictable. The 2020 economic bludgeoning and the 2021 economic uncertainty virtually guaranteed that Major League Baseball’s teams would tread deliberately through the offseason.

In another way? It ain’t as much of a bloodbath as anticipated. Which increases the intrigue for the high-wattage likes of George Springer and DJ LeMahieu.

Granted, we are talking about a small sample. Only five of The Post’s top 30 free agents (we actually included 32) have signed, and that’s including the two guys — pitchers Kevin Gausman of the Giants and Marcus Stroman of the Mets — who accepted their clubs’ one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer. Through Wednesday afternoon, 42 of the approximately 190 free agents, including players coming over from Asia, had signed guaranteed deals with MLB teams, as per the website MLB Trade Rumors.

That group, however, generally has done well in the market and matched or even exceeded industry expectations.

Leading that pack is new Mets catcher James McCann, whose four-year, $40.6 million commitment surpassed projections to the point at which, as The Post’s Joel Sherman reported, a competing official called it “bananas.” In our predictions, I had the Mets inking McCann for three years and $27 million. Other impressive contracts of note:

—  The Braves gave lefty Drew Smyly, who pitched in seven games last season and posted a 6.24 ERA in 2019, $11 million for one year.

—  The Royals, trying to improve in the wake of five straight non-winning seasons, gave lefty Mike Minor $18 million over two years and first baseman Carlos Santana $17.5 million over two years despite both men coming off bad years and residing on the wrong side of 30.

— The Mariners, seeing the value in acquiring a pitcher who clocked a more traditional workload than MLB’s COVID-shortened 2020 allowed, signed former Mets draftee Chris Flexen to a two-year, $4.75 million pact after he spent last season competing in Korea.

— Just this week, the Dodgers re-signed reliever Blake Treinen, who performed below replacement level during the regular season in both 2019 and 2020, to a two-year, $17.5 million package.

These deals generally have pleased folks on the players’ side, especially after panic ensued when all 29 teams let the Indians waive closer Brad Hand without biting on his $10 million team option for 2021. And I think it does bode well for the big names: Springer, LeMahieu, Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto.

Springer and the Mets still appear to be a probable coupling, with Steve Cohen set to write his first nine-figure check for a baseball work of art, and the Yankees and LeMahieu likely will find common ground befitting the second baseman’s talent. Bauer acknowledged meeting with the Blue Jays, who are at worst the second-most aggressive team this winter (after the Mets). The Phillies can re-sign Realmuto while still lowering their 2020 payroll, which was their stated goal. The Dodgers remain a threat to sign whomever they desire thanks to their market size, payroll flexibility and desire to defend their crown.

Nevertheless, folks on the players’ side generally feel frustration that the market as a whole has moved at a glacial pace, with the concern being: Are clubs waiting to see who blinks come, say Feb. 1, if spring training actually starts on time? Even if the top guys reach their targets, will the pain be felt among those in the second and third tier who didn’t move more quickly?

We’ll find out eventually. The agents with signed clients, however, already can feel satisfaction, as well as relief. And that, small sample acknowledged for a second time, exceeds many industry projections.

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