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Thursday, August 21, 2014

FG: Brian McCann Probably Couldn’t Be Given Away For Free

Take a real class about McCant’s!

Much has been made of [Brian] McCann and his issues facing the shift, and that’s true to an extent… [but] He’s always been shifted on. It’s overly simplistic to put it all on that.

Besides, McCann has been doing what he can to avoid it. His grounder rate of 33.0% is easily the lowest of his career, and… He’s actually in the top 15 as far as lefty hitters going the other way…

McCann’s walk rate [has declined] pretty steadily from 2010 until now, where it’s less than half what it was, and this is sort of the thing: McCann’s lousy year isn’t any one thing. It’s a few small things, adding up… McCann’s power, which everyone figured would translate well to the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium, hasn’t come with him. It’s actually less that he’s failed to take advantage of right field in the Bronx, and more that it’s been the only thing making his homer totals look even respectable… Every single one [of his homeruns] is out to right field; all but two are at Yankee Stadium…

McCann will need to improve considerably just to get back to being a league-average hitter, and even with how difficult it is to find offense from behind the plate, that’s not exactly what the Yankees were hoping for when they invested so much in him over the winter.

The District Attorney Posted: August 21, 2014 at 01:49 PM | 49 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: brian mccann, sabermetrics, yankees

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   1. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: August 21, 2014 at 02:55 PM (#4776486)
Isn't the conclusion vacuously true? That is, assuming a competitive* FA market, shouldn't it be the norm that most FA's can't "be given away" shortly after they sign a multiyear deal? Particularly given that the great value is typically at the beginning of contract.

*Competitive in the sense that there are no barriers to entry (e.g., player would never sign for Team X), there are no search/transaction costs, etc.

McCann signed for $85M/5yr on 12/03/13, presumably at a premium above what either the Red Sox or Rangers were willing to pay (the two other teams rumored to be serious buyers). Even had McCann matched projections in 2014, why would there suddenly be the emergence of a team that would be in a position to assume the contract?

Say the Yankees put Ellsbury on revocable waivers and then decided to rid themselves if a team claims him. So far in 2014, Ellsbury is basically right at his 50percentile PECOTA (.270 TAV actual versus .274 TAv) and his health has been about what one would expect. If a team wasn't willing to pay $153M/7yr for Ellsbury's age 30-37 seasons, why would they be willing to pay $131M/6yr for Ellsbury's age 31-37 seasons?


EDIT: One exception would be a free agent who signs a "home team discount" or whatever. But in the general course of things, it seems to me that most players couldn't "be given away" shortly after they signed their contract.
   2. John Northey Posted: August 21, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4776494)
I suspect the Yankees would need to pick up a ton of McCann's contract to trade him and that should be the story, not that they can't give him away.
Last winter the Jays signed Navarro for 2/$8 million vs McCann's 5/$85 million. So far Navarro has a 93 OPS+ in 110 games vs McCann's 88 in 106 games. By fWAR you get McCann 1.2 vs Navarro 1.1. So the Yankees are paying a ton more for 0.1 WAR.

So if the Yankees would pick up, say, $60 mil of the remaining contract maybe the Jays will do a one for one trade :)
   3. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 21, 2014 at 03:12 PM (#4776496)
I suspect the Yankees would need to pick up a ton of McCann's contract to trade him


I wonder who blinks first on a contract swap of McCann for BJ Upton.
   4. Ron J2 Posted: August 21, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4776501)
#3 Ooh. Challenge trade of a very different type.

I suspect both teams would go for it if it actually came up.
   5. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 21, 2014 at 03:20 PM (#4776504)
I do to, Ron. I think the Braves would go with "sure, we'll take our hometown hero back and see if we can fix him" and the Yankees would take the shorter (?) contract and the OF option.
   6. BDC Posted: August 21, 2014 at 03:38 PM (#4776515)
I was going to venture that the Rangers would have preferred McCann this year to their collection of catchers, but McCann and Robinson Chirinos, who makes a couple of grand over the minimum, are batting about the same, and I can't imagine there's any great defensive difference either. You'd rather have McCann than Arencibia, but JP is batting .178 or something.
   7. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 21, 2014 at 03:47 PM (#4776524)
Isn't the conclusion vacuously true? That is, assuming a competitive* FA market, shouldn't it be the norm that most FA's can't "be given away" shortly after they sign a multiyear deal? Particularly given that the great value is typically at the beginning of contract.

*Competitive in the sense that there are no barriers to entry (e.g., player would never sign for Team X), there are no search/transaction costs, etc.

McCann signed for $85M/5yr on 12/03/13, presumably at a premium above what either the Red Sox or Rangers were willing to pay (the two other teams rumored to be serious buyers). Even had McCann matched projections in 2014, why would there suddenly be the emergence of a team that would be in a position to assume the contract?
Even without the caveat that the first, supposedly best, year is behind the player this should be true.

Essentially, the player signed for more money than every team but 1 thought reasonable; he's overpaid in the eyes of 29 teams even if he meets expectations. I used to think people threw around the term "albatross contract" way too much, but I've come to realize every long-term contract, unless there's a big hometown discount, is probably an albatross.
   8. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 21, 2014 at 03:54 PM (#4776531)
You are all forgetting the Dodgers, who will need a catcher next year and don't care much about spending money.

Perhaps a trade of an overpriced Dodger outfielder for an overpriced McCann? With some cash thrown in?
   9. Nasty Nate Posted: August 21, 2014 at 04:04 PM (#4776539)
I used to think people threw around the term "albatross contract" way too much, but I've come to realize every long-term contract, unless there's a big hometown discount, is probably an albatross.


That's not really true. Plenty of long contracts attain positive trade value at times during the deal for various reasons.
   10. catomi01 Posted: August 21, 2014 at 04:04 PM (#4776540)
#1...things also change in the season...if (for example) Wieters injury brought up concerns of him sticking at catcher longer term, and the Orioles were willing to spend the money - they might look at someone like McCann, whereas they would not have been in the market in the offseason.

edited: NOTE - I mean this as if McCann were providing production in line with his contract - not necessarily the bad McCann - if he hit like the yankees thought, and was worth the deal, there are cases were other teams would want him even if they were outbid/not involved in the FA talks in the winter.
   11. Batman Posted: August 21, 2014 at 04:05 PM (#4776541)
The Dodgers could use a catcher this year. Their catchers are hitting .183/.277/.268.
   12. catomi01 Posted: August 21, 2014 at 04:06 PM (#4776543)
ou are all forgetting the Dodgers, who will need a catcher next year and don't care much about spending money.

Perhaps a trade of an overpriced Dodger outfielder for an overpriced McCann? With some cash thrown in?


Only if the Dodgers could also take an overpriced Carlos Beltran too...OF/DH is already crowded in NY, even with Ichiro off the books after this season.
   13. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 21, 2014 at 04:48 PM (#4776583)
You are all forgetting the Dodgers, who will need a catcher next year and don't care much about spending money.


I've been assuming that they're just going to sign Russell Martin.
   14. Spahn Insane Posted: August 21, 2014 at 04:55 PM (#4776586)
Give you Edwin Jackson for him. Gotta throw in some pretty good money, though.
   15. TRBMB Posted: August 21, 2014 at 05:09 PM (#4776597)
Yankee fans can relax, if Hal lacks smarts and guts, Cashboy will remain in business and will simply do what he always does, his only skill, throw lots of $$$$ at someone and then just hope. That is the eternal Cashboy strategy. Fail at drafting and development, succeed at huge $$$$ delivery. He is the Cashboy.

We can only hope Hal makes him cash out.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: August 21, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4776620)
I've come to realize every long-term contract, unless there's a big hometown discount, is probably an albatross.

Sub-optimal most of the time sure but "albatross" should be reserved for contracts that are genuinely hindering. If McCann bounces back and puts up something like 8-10 WAR over the 5 years then it wasn't an albatross.

The last X years of the ARod contract are an albatross and then some. The Pujols contract is looking might albatross-y with current money already pretty badly out of proportion with production and the remaining money looking downright scary.

If this is just the first stop on a McCann cliff dive then maybe he's an albatross ... even then, it's only about 8% of the Yanks payroll so not exactly hindering.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: August 21, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4776626)
In short, over the last few years, we can probably point to 20+ contracts that are scarier than McCann's -- some still scarier, others just scarier when they were signed but a few years gone now. Craswford, Fielder, Pujols, ARod II, probably Cabrera II, maybe Mauer (just 4/$92 left now), probably Hamilton, maybe Werth, Upton, Uggla, maybe Wright, Howard, maybe Votto (still has 9 years to go!), AGon, Tulo starting to not look so good and that's just a brief glimpse at position players.
   18. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 21, 2014 at 07:16 PM (#4776689)
I've been assuming that they're just going to sign Russell Martin


That's a very good plan. IMO Martin will be the best available option.
   19. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: August 21, 2014 at 08:11 PM (#4776720)
Yankee fans can relax, if Hal lacks smarts and guts, Cashboy will remain in business and will simply do what he always does, his only skill, throw lots of $$$$ at someone and then just hope. That is the eternal Cashboy strategy. Fail at drafting and development, succeed at huge $$$$ delivery. He is the Cashboy.

We can only hope Hal makes him cash out.


Well, if I was wondering where the trash went when LoHud shut down, now I know ...

Yay, Ignore function!
   20. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 21, 2014 at 08:17 PM (#4776725)
You are all forgetting the Dodgers, who will need a catcher next year and don't care much about spending money.

Carlos Ruiz is available.
   21. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 21, 2014 at 08:56 PM (#4776765)
The mild irony is that Cervelli has produced very well (OPS+ of 142 and 131) as a backup over the past two years, in spite of injuries and suspension.
   22. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 21, 2014 at 09:06 PM (#4776773)
Yankee fans can relax, if Hal lacks smarts and guts, Cashboy will remain in business and will simply do what he always does, his only skill, throw lots of $$$$ at someone and then just hope. That is the eternal Cashboy strategy. Fail at drafting and development, succeed at huge $$$$ delivery. He is the Cashboy.

Besides being facile and infantile analysis, this is not really true. He did add a lot at the trading deadline. He picked up Headley, McCarthy, Capuano, Prado and Drew for almost nothing. There is a long history of the Yanks picking up useful players at midseason.
   23. God Posted: August 21, 2014 at 09:12 PM (#4776778)
Carlos Ruiz might be the biggest Dodger killer in MLB over the past decade, so I wouldn't be surprised if they signed him just to get him out of the other team's lineup. (He'll probably continue to be a Dodger killer... just on the Dodgers.)

I wouldn't be surprised if they stuck with Ellis either. He's got a history of being better than this, and midseason knee surgery never helped any catcher's performance. Plus he's got a reputation for being a huge intangibles guy and being a big part of why the Dodger pitchers are as good as they are. Plus he's the best friend of the presumptive NL MVP, so there could also be a bit of a Bagwell/Biggio/Ausmus situation developing.
   24. BDC Posted: August 21, 2014 at 09:19 PM (#4776783)
I'm relieved that Shin-Soo Choo didn't make Walt's list of scary contracts. I feel better about that one already :)
   25. Walt Davis Posted: August 21, 2014 at 10:10 PM (#4776803)
Alas BDC, I think that says more about my memory than it does about the contract. I like Choo as a player but couldn't see him aging well. Definitely scarier than McCann's at the moment.

On the bright side, Choo moving to DH will keep Prince in the field where he's more valuable. :-)

I guess the bright side is that Choo's season looks more like a lot of things going a little bit wrong rather than a total collapse. I mean he's below his career averages pretty much across the board when it comes to components, but not ridiculously so. The biggest concern is the K-rate spike which could be a slowing bat and marking a shift towards even more old-man hitting skills.
   26. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 22, 2014 at 08:51 AM (#4776903)
If this is just the first stop on a McCann cliff dive then maybe he's an albatross...even then, it's only about 8% of the Yanks payroll so not exactly hindering.
Yeah, they're the Yankees, but even they are stacking up the bad contracts right now.
Sub-optimal most of the time sure but "albatross" should be reserved for contracts that are genuinely hindering. If McCann bounces back and puts up something like 8-10 WAR over the 5 years then it wasn't an albatross
I guess that's the question. A 30-year old catcher has now had 1 WAR seasons 2 of the last 3 years; is this his new level of performance?
Plenty of long contracts attain positive trade value at times during the deal for various reasons.
Can you name one, because I sure can't think of any that weren't plain salary dumps.
   27. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:04 AM (#4776908)
Plenty of long contracts attain positive trade value at times during the deal for various reasons.
Can you name one, because I sure can't think of any that weren't plain salary dumps.


I can't either, but there's more than a bit of selection bias there. For example, Evan Longoria certainly fits the bill, even though he hasn't been traded. There's a passell of clubs who would trade their entire farm system for Mike Trout. There have been rumors of a trade of Hamels to the Cubs for Castro and prospects. I'd say that's another example. The first Alex Rodriguez contract. That might fit your definition of a salary dump, but the Rangers got a good young player and didn't have to send any cash the other way. That certainly counts as positive value.
   28. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4776916)
Isn't VA's argument that any player who opt outs, and then gets more money in a subsequent contract (Arod, CC and J.D. Drew come to mind) someone who had positive trade value at the time?

All it really takes is for someone to exceed expectations at the time the contract was signed or for someone to meet expectations and for salaries to experience an escalation since the contract was signed, neither of which is all that uncommon.
   29. BDC Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:23 AM (#4776917)
the Rangers got a good young player and didn't have to send any cash the other way

The Rangers paid a significant portion of AROD's salary till the Yankees renegotiated the deal, and even then it seems the Rangers were on the hook for some cash until 2010.

But yes, even that contract was not insane, especially given that he played at an MVP level for many years.

The Colorado guys, Tulo and Cargo, would seem like very good long contracts at the time, and quite valuable for a while afterwards. I guess they fell into the hometown discount category, and the way things turned out they may have to be shot with crossbows soon enough.
   30. Nasty Nate Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4776921)
Plenty of long contracts attain positive trade value at times during the deal for various reasons.


Can you name one, because I sure can't think of any that weren't plain salary dumps.


I was thinking of players who weren't necessarily traded, just that their FA contracts earned positive trade value along the way. Off the top of my head: Jose Abreu, Aramis Ramirez, Andrian Beltre, Johnny Damon w Sox, Matt Holliday.

John Lackey's contract gained positive trade value, but that might be thought of as result of the quirky front-loading so maybe doesn't count.
   31. Ron J2 Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4776942)
#9 Depends on how you define plenty I suppose. When Zimbalist did his study, only 11% of long term contracts came out as excellent from a strict financial point of view. Free agents as a group were overpaid by about a third based strictly on the marginal value the added to the team's finances.

What TDF is talking about is completely predictable from a theoretical POV. "Winner's curse" is the technical term.

Now 11% is still "plenty", and another third or so of free agent signing fall into the neutral range. And a good chunk of the rest fall into the "not a flaming mess" category.
   32. Nasty Nate Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:14 AM (#4776955)

What TDF is talking about is completely predictable from a theoretical POV. "Winner's curse" is the technical term.


Sure, but that status can change throughout the length of the contract.
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:20 AM (#4776961)
Sure, but that status can change throughout the length of the contract.

Right. The day after a long term FA contract is signed (not an extension of a team controlled player) the player should have negative value, since every other team valued his future production less than the signing team.

But, the best estimate of the future production may change. The player can decline less quickly than expected, or can even improve. Or, the market can change so that the value of that production becomes higher.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4776987)
In the 2005 offseason the Mets lost a bidding war to the Marlins over Carlos Delgado. There was some other complicated stuff that I don't really remember (they insulted him or something?). Anyway, 4 years, $52 million. Backloaded - the first year was only $4 million.

Delgado had a very good year. Then the Mets traded for him, getting only the backend of the contract that they wouldn't top the year previous. They gave up a good pitching prospect (Y Petit) and a decent young player (Mike Jacobs).

The explanation for this one is a combination of the strong year Delgado had, changing Mets fortunes (in the one year they shifted from bad team to potential contender), and lolMets.
   35. Ron J2 Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4776997)
#32 But the problem you face is that almost all free agents are heading into their decline phase. Most free agent contracts are of a nature where the player basically has to hold his value to break even and defy the typical aging pattern be any kind of bargain.

OK. it does happen -- particularly holding value (any given 32 year old is a reasonable bet to play roughly as well at 33. It's just that every year you have the chance that he'll slip. And injuries tend to become more of an issue). Not the way I'd choose to bet though.
   36. Nasty Nate Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:43 AM (#4776999)
In fairness to the Mets, I think the Marlins sent them some money in the Delgado deal.
   37. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4777006)
#32 But the problem you face is that almost all free agents are heading into their decline phase. Most free agent contracts are of a nature where the player basically has to hold his value to break even and defy the typical aging pattern be any kind of bargain.

Right, but sometimes that happens. Or, the value of a given level of production increase, so older deals become relative bargains.
   38. PreservedFish Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4777012)
In fairness to the Mets, I think the Marlins sent them some money in the Delgado deal.

True. Looks like they got $7 million.

Here's the details on the Delgado/Mets kerfuffle:

The Mets offered Delgado a four-year, $52 million deal, as the Marlins did, but in some respects, the New York offer was sweeter. Unlike the Marlins, the Mets included a no-trade clause for the first three years and added a hotel suite on the road and an attractive bonus package.

Delgado chose to sign with the Marlins, he said, because he thought they were closer to a World Series. But he was also clearly upset with the Mets' recruiting approach. He claimed that Minaya and Tony Bernazard, a Mets special assistant and a native of Puerto Rico, overplayed their common Latin heritage with him. He also became miffed when the Mets put a deadline on their offer, and Delgado's interest rapidly deteriorated.


NY Times link
   39. Nasty Nate Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4777015)
Right, but sometimes that happens. Or, the value of a given level of production increase, so older deals become relative bargains.

Also, the expected decline is (usually) included in what teams are willing to pay.
   40. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 22, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4777016)
None of Tulo, CarGo, Trout or Longoria were FAs when they signed their contracts. If they'd been on the free market, another team probably would have paid them much more.

ARod, maybe, depending on how you look at it. TEX obviously didn't think he'd be worth the money, or they wouldn't have thrown in $71M to trade him. In hindsight, he was a good value for NY during that 1st contract.

Ramirez's first FA contract covered '07-11, for $70M. The last 3 of those 5 seasons he totaled 3.6 WAR. His current contract would count as a good signing, but 3 years hardly defines "long term" (and his resurgence could hardly be expected, coming off those 3 previous seasons).
   41. Nasty Nate Posted: August 22, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4777026)
Ramirez's first FA contract covered '07-11, for $70M. The last 3 of those 5 seasons he totaled 3.6 WAR.

And his deal looks like it was backloaded, so he was probably a bad example. Although he briefly might have had positive trade value after 2008.
   42. JE (Jason) Posted: August 22, 2014 at 11:08 AM (#4777036)
He claimed that Minaya and Tony Bernazard, a Mets special assistant and a native of Puerto Rico, overplayed their common Latin heritage with him.

Did Tony also threaten to beat him up if he didn't sign?
   43. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2014 at 11:10 AM (#4777038)
Did Tony also threaten to beat him up if he didn't sign?

No, but he did take off his shirt.
   44. PreservedFish Posted: August 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4777128)
This happens in my DMB league occasionally. Someone will win the auction on a player and then immediately put them on the trading block. Doesn't really make sense. (Although I suppose you could find a deal if one guy is having cap space issues and couldn't make the winning bid before shedding some salary.)
   45. Buck Coats Posted: August 22, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4777140)
The Marlins also pulled that same trick off with Reyes and Buehrle - backoaded contracts, then traded away for prospects after 1 season (with a little cash thrown in)
   46. Joey B. Posted: August 22, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4777146)
I have to admit, the Braves have become a whole lot less douschebaggy and unlikeable since the Redneck-in-Chief left them to go to the Yankees. Weird, huh?
   47. Walt Davis Posted: August 23, 2014 at 04:15 AM (#4777626)
The first ARod contract was one of the best FA contracts of all time I'd think. That first contract covered his age 25-34 seasons ... he produced 71 WAR. If you take him just through the opt out, it's 56 WAR in 7 seasons.

The Rangers were idiots to trade ARod -- and it was done because they decided they needed a scapegoat for their own incompetence. And remember, two teams were willing to trade for ARod.

Not the way I'd choose to bet though.

Have you really considered your other options? It's not like teams can just buy prime age players and it's not like investing an additional $20-30 M per year in the draft is even possible much less beneficial. Sure, as an owner, I'd rather the money went into my pocket than McCann's ... but as a GM or fan, I'd rather it went into McCann's than the owners. And I think the next time we see the $20 M not spent this year being carried over to the next year will be the first time.

Of course if you consistently pick the right $8 M player (Russell Martin) then you get the best of both worlds.

On "FA contracts with value", I'll WAG that it's mostly pitchers. We've seen what teams are willing to give up for 1-2 expensive years of Shields, Price, Samardzija, etc. The Phils would have had plenty of takers for Halladay after 2011. Other cases include the period following the "market correction" that saw Vlad, Thome and some others signing reasonably cheaply. Thome got hurt so the Phils did have to eat some money when they traded him to the Sox but he was easily tradeable until he got hurt.

Anyway, we see too many trades of pending FAs, sometimes followed by large extensions, to think that FAs _never_ have positive trade value.

Of course it's rare that the FA has performed at a level that he's attractive to other teams but the team that signed him is so badly off or un-enamored that they're looking to trade him. Rangers-ARod was a rare exception and that was the Rangers being morons.

Also of course Vernon Wells ... although it's possible the Angels made a mistake on that one. :-)
   48. Ziggy Posted: August 23, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4777671)
Presumably GMs are fired/not depending on how much money they make for ownership. I'd imagine that GMs would rather see the money go into the owner's pockets as well. I hate to say it, but if I ran a team, I think I'd try to duplicate the Marlin's strategy.

Whether a contract is trade-able or not doesn't depend on whether it's front-loaded or back-loaded, because you can always send cash along in the deal. If you have a seriously back-loaded contract (like with Delgado) that's traded once it gets expensive, sending cash along is just giving up some of the value that you've already captured from the deal in order to avoid the negative value at the end. (In fact, as a team you ALWAYS want a deal to be back-loaded. You get to invest the money that's due to the player until you have to pay him, and if you decide to trade him you can always send cash along with him.)

Here's a question: instead of buying FA, who are usually on the decline, could you buy a young star? How much money would it take to get Stanton from the Marlins? I imagine that the sticking point would be that Selig would veto a straight sale of a young star, but maybe he shouldn't. It's not like they're trying to build a fan-base down there anyway.
   49. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 25, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4778939)
2/john: Unincluded in those WAR estimates are things like pitch calling, which heavily favor McCann (by BPro metrics they are at opposite ends of the leaderboard spectrum to the tune of three wins or so;trust or regress that as you see fit).
By rep and previous years' numbers, McCann is excellent here.

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