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Did Cashman Plan Well Enough This Offseason?

Early March Thoughts by Cary Greene

March 12, 2024


Perhaps Brian Cashman did a fantastic job this offseason, given that the Yankees really didn’t have a ton of money fall off the books after what was a lost 2023 season, one in which the Yankees squandered a full year of prime Gerrit Cole.


During a recent media interview on the YES Network, Hal Steinbrenner summed things up when he said, “I think we have a championship caliber team right now, but we haven’t stopped looking to improve and we never will.” He continued on saying, “I mean, we’re able to do whatever we’re able to do all the way up to the Trade Deadline and that’s a long time from now.”


When asked whether the Yankees would sign a free agent like Blake Snell, Steinbrenner went on to say, “I’m not going to get into free agents, I’m just going to tell you that we continue to look at a lot of different options, and, um…you know, given where we are payroll wise, any addition to the club is going to be a costly one, but I’m still willing to consider anything that comes my way - anything Cash and his team brings my way.” He then said, “I’ll leave it at that, but we are not done trying to improve this team.”


Then came a very key statement in the Q&A session that Hal had with reporters when he was asked, “In the past, you had said you didn't think it should take a $300 million payroll to win a championship. Do you still agree with that?” Hal responded emphatically, “I still agree with that!” Then he said, “Well, we didn’t have a whole lot of money come off the payroll. I think we started this offseason at right around $245 to $250 million, so it wasn’t going to take much to get up to $300 (million).” In saying this, Steinbrenner unwittingly revealed that $300 million is, in his view, more than enough money for Brian Cashman to build a championship team with.


In other words - he views $300 million as a barrier that if crossed, would be extremely costly. After listening to the interview, one thing is clear. The Yankees are not likely to pay double, due to the CBT, for free agent players who are expensive to begin with.


Late in the media session, he was asked, “Do you feel like you have enough pitching right now?” He responded, “I think our starting rotation is very good, yes!” He went on to explain, paraphrasing here, that the Yankees lost a lot of pitching depth in the trade for Soto and as they explored other deals, “everybody wanted guys like Warren and Hampton and I just wasn’t willing to part with them.” From listening to this interview, we learned a lot not only about how the Yankees work, but also, what their path will likely look like from now until the Trade Deadline.


It appears that Hal Steinbrenner really does make some key decisions, likely he agrees with and/or strongly considers whatever Cashman and his team recommend. There are clearly things Steinbrenner will and won’t do. While he agreed to add Juan Soto as basically a one-year rental player (which bumped the Yankees 2024 payroll by $30 million by the way), he decided to hang onto a few pitchers that other GM’s were asking for in various trade proposals. Chase Hampton, Will Warren and Luis Gil’s names came up in fact.


Stienbrenner pointed out that trading for Soto was too good of an opportunity to pass up, when he said “An opportunity arose where the Padres needed certain things that we had and I don’t know how you can say no, if you’re able to do it (acquire Juan Soto)  financially.” Certainly, the Yankees made a massive and very costly decision to make the trade for Soto - it was a decision that basically left room for only one more marquee addition.


It was no secret that the Yankees wanted another starting pitcher and so, after the Yankees tendered an offer to free agent Blake Snell  (who turned his nose up at said offer, presumably being advised by his agent, Scott Boras), Cashman adeptly moved on to Marcus Stroman and pulled the trigger on a more palatable deal. After the dust settled, most Yankees fans were cool with the Stroman signing, he is afterall a ground ball machine and he certainly has the guts to pitch in the Bronx.


Brian Cashman has positioned the Yankees payroll as the highest in baseball at this point. Yankees fans are eager for the season to start, the roster is shaping up and spring baseball is in the air ... .but are the moves that Cashman has made going to deliver a Championship? It’s a fair question and it's also a question that we won’t know the answer to for quite some time. Afterall, there’s a full season of baseball yet to be played.


Most Yankees fans are pretty happy with all of the moves Cashman has made up to this point and considering that the Yankees payroll is at what appears to be very close to its peak threshold - based on Steinbrenner’s recent comments which I’ve outlined above - is there anything else that Cashman could have done to create a better roster?


One area that Cashman may have overlooked was that this offseason presented an opportunity to perhaps shed some payroll and if that could have been accomplished, additional dollars that might have been used in other ways to improve the team. Granted, a number of players were not brought back - from Luis Severino and Frankie Montas to Domingo German, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, Wandy Peralta and Kenyan Middleton so Cashman certainly created enough wiggle room to accommodate the likes of Juan Soto, Trent Grisham, Marcus Stroman and Alex Verdugo - but could more have been done?


A pass must be given for not being able to trade or dump the most expensive elephant in the room - Giancarlo Stanton. It’s very clear that no team in baseball would take on the remaining 4-years and $88 million in salary that would be owed to him. Most sane Yankees fans understand that offing Stanton, considering he also has a full no trade clause and factoring in that he’s declining badly, was and will continue to be a sisyphean job.


It also is very likely that adding an expensive backup plan, a player who could be a bat first option in case Stanton’s once mighty swing is truly dilapidated,  as it appeared last season and continues to look so early this Spring, wasn’t in the cards financially as Steinbrenner has emphatically indicated that ANY free agent addition would be a very costly one. Many bloggers and posters, even ones here on SSTN, have lobbied for the Yankees to sign another marquee bat but this goes against the fiscally responsible approach that Steinbrenner is clearly taking. In one respect, I feel bad for Hal Steinbrenner. The media attacks him like a swarm of angry hornets whenever he meanders into a hallway and an impromptu media session is formed. The press routinely beats Hal up pretty badly for an owner who just okayed the addition of Juan Soto’s $30 million bat while also approving the signing of other key free agents.


It’s now clear why the Yankees passed on Cody Bellinger and a few other names that might have helped the middle of the lineup - names that have been loquaciously branded about in the media this offseason. Considering that Bellinger, who was rumored to be an ideal fit for the Yankees, signed with the Cubs for 3-years and $80 million, with a 2024 slice of pie totalling $27.5 million - it’s very clear that the Yankees weren’t into spending $60 million this season simply to put Bellinger in center field. I think the decision not to pursue Bellinger was actually a lot less about his projected regression, which is forecasted by every single projection service from Steamers to PECOTA and more about the almighty dollar and having to pay double for him.


With Trent Grisham around to be a fourth outfielder and with Jasson Dominguez and Everson Pereira both serving as depth, the Yankees wisely passed on adding Bellinger. Unfortunately, the time for the Yankees to add Bellinger would have been last offseason and a two year deal would have been the play, but that ship has sailed as adding him this season would have been a blatant exercise in prodigality.


It’s also not a surprise that Bellinger wound up signing with the Cubs. From the Yankees perspective, having to pay double for him in 2024 was certainly unpalatable but given that Bellinger declined a qualifying offer of $20.325 million and elected free agency last November, it meant that any team that signed him would also forfeit two draft picks and they’d lose $1 million form their International Bonus Pool pot. If the Cubs had signed any other similar free agent, they’d also have been penalized, but by signing Bellinger, they avoided these kinds of castigations.


The Yankees passed on Jorge Soler, who signed with the Giants for three-years at what seemed to be a very reasonable $42 million, back loaded deal that might have actually worked perfectly for the Yankees - or would it have?  The Giants will pay Soler a mere $10 million this season, but they’ll also pay a $6 million CBT hit as well, which actually makes the Giant’s move likely an unfavorable one considering Fangraphs calculated that last season, defensively challenged Soler would have been worth only $14.9 million if he would have been a free agent.


One-way players like Stanton and Soler, neither of whom puts up gaudy offensive stats, aren’t worth backing the money truck up for these days. Even though both Bellinger and Soler would have made the Yankees lineup better, neither player ultimately made  dollars and sense - spelling error intended. I imagine Cashman knows all of this, as it would explain why he wisely passed on these two bats.


With most of the desirable free agents now wearing uniforms of other teams, it’s at this juncture in the article where acknowledging what could go wrong with Cashman’s plan should be aired out. Beginning the offseason, back in November, Brian Cashman stated resolutely that DJ LeMahieu was going to play third base and in doing so, he seemed to quell speculation that a pricy free agent like Matt Chapman would be brought in. However, the Yankees were definitely looking for a cheap backup plan and there were indeed rumors connecting the team to Gio Urshela prior to him accepting a one-year, $1.5 million contract from the Tigers.


Steadfastly planning on DJ LeMahieu, who will turn 36 in July, to play third base for the duration of the season is a key decision to say the least. On one hand, LeMahieu had a pretty good second half last season as he put up an .809 OPS, slashing .273/.377/.432 across 220 at-bats. However, on the other hand, none of the major projection services are bullish on LeMahieu and they forecast him to have a 1.2 to 1.7 fWAR season.  Nonetheless, LeMahieu is a very understated key to the Yankees season, considering he’s also the team’s primarily leadoff hitter - even though he posted a -7 BsR last season. What if LeMahieu struggles or goes down with a significant injury this season? What is the backup plan?


One of the Yankees other aging players is of course Anthony Rizzo, who the projection services are predicting will have a 0.9 to 1.4 fWAR season. The Yankees are counting on Rizzo to protect the big boppers, Soto and Judge and he is the single most important left-handed bat not named Soto in the Yankees lineup. Though he’s looked fit as a fiddle and he’s hitting like Lou Gherig so far this Spring, the MLB season is a long, grinding one and father time waits for no man. Likewise, what if Rizzo struggles as the season wears on or, what if he goes down with a significant injury again?


Unquestionably, both LeMahieu and Rizzo are massive keys to the Yankees fate this season. If they both beat projections and remain healthy, the Yankees are a vastly different looking team. I’m also ecstatic to finally be able to say that the Yankees are no longer counting on their third aging player, the colossus known as Big G - Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton is now a defensive after thought. It finally doesn’t matter one iota whether or not he plays a single inning in the field defensively, but make no mistake, his bat is still hugely important as he is the team’s primary DH afterall.


Forecasts are not encouraging for Stanton, as he’s projected to be worth from 0.5 to 1.1 fWAR this year. When last year’s StatCast data on Stanton is broken down, what jumps out of the data is that he’s no longer doing damage on pitches he used to scald. While he’s always historically been vulnerable down and away and down and in, Stanton is no longer punishing the mistakes that opposing pitchers make. Isn’t it then also fair of me to ask, what happens if Stanton is washed up by the Trade Deadline? What should the Yankees plan be at DH over the second half of the season?


In past articles, I’ve identified three aging Yankees, LeMahieu, Rizzo and Stanton, who are my biggest concerns heading into the 2024 season and I’ve duly touched on each above. Now, here are the 2024 projections, using a mix of both PECOTA and all other major services. Let’s hope all three players significantly outperform what they are projected to accomplish.


Should any of these aging players either go down with injuries or falter due to decline, they will need to be replaced. Therefore, this offseason, it would have behooved  Brian Cashman to either ensure that the Yankees system is stocked with high impact depth pieces or add key players to the active roster that will be able to step in for any of them. While it is fair to say that Cashman has absolutely stockpiled some needed depth, it’s more than likely that come the Trade Deadline, the Yankees will probably be shopping for a corner infielder and or a DH.


So far this Spring and as I wrote, Anthony Rizzo is looking fantastic, as he’s sporting an otherworldly 1.792 OPS in a miniscule 12 at-bats (at the time of this writing).  While it’s very encouraging to see him get off to a hot start this Spring, he’s projected to post a very replaceable 0.9 to 1.4 fWAR this season. What are the Yankees internal options if Rizzo should falter?


Though Austin Wells has never played first base regularly, he could probably fill in here and there for a few games if needed, if the Yankees wanted to keep LeMahieu at third base and not have to dial 1-(800) Scranton-Shuttle! However, if Rizzo is unavailable for an extended period of time, the Yankees will need to either make a trade or give their corner infield prospects a shot at filling in.


Providing organizational depth at first base, the Yankees have non roster invitees TJ Rumfield and JC Escarra in camp this Spring, along with Chad Bell, Spencer Henson, Carlos Narvaez, Luis Torrens, Josh Breaux and Ben Rice are all stashed in the Yankees system and of the bunch, Torrens, and Narvaez have played a fair amount thus far and each has looked good at the plate in a small sample size thus far this Spring.


Ben Rice (Double-A), who is also looking excellent this Spring, is perhaps the most highly regarded yet furthest away from the Big Leagues of the bunch. While DJ LeMahieu can also play first base, moving him to potentially cover for Rizzo opens a hole at third base, which creates a conundrum - do the Yankees call up a prospect who can play third base or one who plays first base? That question segways into a review of what kind of depth the Yankees have at third base.


In mid december, the Yankees traded Trey Sweeney to the Dodgers for versatile infielder Jorbit Vivas and left-handed reliever Victor Gonzalez. Both of Vivas’ two hits in his thirteen Spring at-bats have been home runs and due to his defensive versatility, the Yankees might sooner promote him than anyone else if Rizzo or LeMahieu goes down with an injury. Though Vivas struggled after being promoted to  Triple-A late last season, when he was with the Dodgers, he’s a prospect who has turned heads coming up through the Big Blue system. From 2021 to 2023, Vivas maintained a wRC+ of over 120. It does remain to be seen if he’ll be able to translate his Minor League promise into tangible success in the Big Leagues, but Vivas appears to be the most ready to contribute utility type in the Yankees system.


Oswald Peraza, who happens to be out of options and who is battling a shoulder issue seemed to be penciled in as the leading candidate to be the Yankees utility man this year, but now it's looking that he’s likely headed to the DL, which may open a roster spot that will be hotly contested.


The internet has been buzzing with rumors that Oswald Peraza may be in danger of losing his job with the Yankees and I for one am scoffing at such notions, even though  Peraza’s trade value is at an all time low $13.7 MTV as per Baseball Trade Values. In any case, the Yankees do need someone capable of backing DJ LeMahieu up at third base and this has become and will stay a theme until the end of Spring Training. In fact, depending on how things go, Brian Cashman may have to continue to explore trades for a backup infielder, hoping to upgrade his roster.


Oswaldo Cabrera, who is another option to back up LeMahieu, hasn’t looked good at all this Spring and with options remaining, he seems like a lock to start the season in Scranton. Though he’s capable of playing third base in a pinch, he might benefit from extended reps in the Minor Leagues and the Yankees might be better off looking for another solution to start the season.


Kind of flying under the radar, non roster invitees Caleb Durbin and Josh VanMeter are sure to get extended looks from the Yankees this Spring, though playing time up to this point has been sparse for both players. Personally, I’m rooting for Caleb Durbin to fortuitously sneak onto the roster and become a potential spark plug off the bench, one who might be able to bat leadoff or even hit ninth in the lineup - but I realize this is a huge ask. Durbin has made some changes to his swing and he’s trying to get the ball in the air more, as in the past he’s been more of a ground ball hitter.


For a team like the Yankees, replacing Giancarlo Stanton would be easily done as all it would take would be for the Yankees to move Judge to right field and insert Trent Grisham in center field, bumping Juan Soto into the vacancy at DH. Therefore, positionally, Brian Cashman has actually done a decent job at creating depth options in case any of his aging star players fail to answer the bell regularly this season.


Undeniably, where Brian Cashman’s 2024 plan unravels the most centers on the Yankees starting rotation. I’ve been the biggest Carlso Rodon detractor in the world this offseason, at times I’ve even blatantly lamented that I don’t believe Rodon can handle the pressure of pitching in the Bronx, for the Yankees. In limited starts over the years, he’s been able to come into Yankee stadium and be successful with his mix of hot sauce and jalapenos, but actually pitching FOR the Yankees, IN New York, is of course a whole different enchilada. Placing my concerns in the parking lot, the main reason I’m a Rodon detractor is actually much more so centered on his StatCast data, which suggests his stuff just isn’t that good. Here is an alarming look at his StatCast data, courtesy of StatCast of course! It seems that Rodon supporters completely ignore that his stuff just wasn’t good at all last season. While he did miss a combined 116 days last season due to arm and hamstring issues, when he did pitch, the results weren’t impressive.


This Spring, Rodon claims he’s in good health. He’s made two starts so far in camp and he’s sporting a 6.35 ERA - facing mostly minor league hitters. Rodon of course has a full no trade clause in his contract, so what the Yankees have on their hands is another highly untradeable player. Very few teams would be willing to take on the 5-years and $135 million he is owed and it’s unknown if he’d even entertain being traded in the first place.

It’s fair to make this next statement: As Rodon goes, so will the Yankees go. He’s really the single biggest key to the Yankees season. Brought in to be a second ace in the hole, behind the reigning American League Cy Young award winner Gerrit Cole, Rodon has been a huge disappointment. If he can’t turn it around, the Yankees rotation will fall off dramatically. It’s not easy for a contender to simply replace a pitcher they’re paying to be a front of the rotation level stopper.


Here I go again, but what is the plan to replace Rodon if my suspicions are correct and he flames out this season, pitching so poorly that the Yankees have to find a reason to put him on the 60-Day DL? Internally, the Yankees pitching depth is precariously thin. The most ready-now type candidates to step into the Yankees rotation are spearheaded by Cody Poteet and Luke Weaver, who will likely both be breaking camp as swing men in the Yankees bullpen. While both might be decent fifth starters, neither is capable of slotting in behind Cole to form a two-headed hydra that could carry the Yankees through the playoffs and into the World Series.


Looking at the Yankees organizational depth, Will Warren who is rated as the team's eighth overall prospect by is the top name on the ready-now list. He’s followed by a group of pitchers that aren’t that highly regarded, such as the often injured Yoendry’s Gomez and Luis Gil, who are trailed by Clayton Beeter, Tanner Tully, Sean Boyle and Blane Abeyta.


Projected to open the season in Double-A, righty Chase Hampton - the teams number four overall prospect is easily the most impressive young hurler in the organization. The Yankees have on rare occasions accelerated pitching prospects, but their success rate doing this has been spotty - think Deivi Garcia (who’s actually looking sharp with the White Sox this Spring).


This brings me to the conclusion of today’s article and I intend on ending with a serious bang. I’ve often said that the Yankees are prone to not getting max value out of some of their best players, mainly because they play them out of position. Take last season for example, instead of daring to stretch out Mike King and use him as a starter early on in the season, the Yankees failed to react and they used 12 different starters last season - allowing a number of them to be made by below replacement level performers. Then finally, on August 24th, they finally began to stretch King out and use him as a starter.


Considering the Yankees lack of foresight last season and in past years as well, it's high time for this narrative to change. Recognizing that Jonathan Loaisiga is not effective in high leverage situations out of the bullpen is the first step in my plan to add a starter with high upside to the Yankees rotation. In a plan similar to how Mike King was stretched out, the Yankees should slot Loaisiga into the role of a swingman. After a number of spot starts and longer 3 plus inning outings, with plenty of rest in between each start, Loaisiga could finally become what he once teased that he was - a potentially elite starter.


It turns out, the solution to the Yankees biggest current problem is very likely right under their leadership team’s noses. Presently they’re of course blind to this notion - but they shouldn’t be. Without missing a beat, the Yankees could insert Luis Gil into Loaisiga’s bullpen role. Loaisiga is a free agent after this season. The time is NOW to gamble on him and if he breaks down, then good riddance. But what if he holds up?


Loaisiga’s stuff is electric. The Yankees also have a deep pen and plenty of middling swing men to eat innings here and there. If managed properly and again, if he can hold up with plenty of extra rest between outings, the goal would be to have Loaisiga available to make a couple of potential starts in the playoffs. From there, anything could happen. This is about putting your best chips in the right bags folks. The time is now to make Johnny Lasagna a starter!


By the end of the season, the Yankees rotation might look very different. Chase Hampton could also appear as the leaves begin to turn orange, yellow and red. Will Warren might also claim a bullpen spot. Personally, I think it’s time to set a plan in motion that accounts for the likelihood that Carlos Rodon isn’t likely to help the Yankees as much as it was hoped he would. I’m also not confident that my favorite Yankee, Nestor Cortes, is going to hold up to another full season of wear and tear. If the Yankees rotation implodes this season, I’ll be the one telling you, “I told you so.”


Don’t take this to mean I think that the Yankees should run out and pay $63 million for Blake Snell’s services. I fully understand the financial implications of making such a now foolish signing.





Alan B.
Alan B.
Mar 12

The Dominguez injury changed so much for Cashman, with what he did and who he traded for and who he traded away. Grisham is here because of the injury IMO. Trading for Verdugo the day before the Soto trade, assured to Cashman that there was no place on the 2024 Yankees for CF Estevan Florial, who Cashman HAD TO put back on the 40 man roster, and just let Boone play him, without pinch hitting for him in the 4th inning. Problem for Cashman was in the last 3 weeks, after Dominguez went down, Florial didn't face plant, and was at least a viable candidate to be Dominguez's replacement until he was healthy. Cashman could never have that. Hi…

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Mar 12
Replying to

Good point about the Dominguez injury changing Cashman's tactical approach to this offseason Alan. I'm one of the few here who was kind of miffed at the way the Yankees handles Estevan Florial last season, but to me it was par for the course with Brian Cashman and the way the team is run these days - said with full acknowledgement that Florial does strike out too much and has glaring issues in terms of his poor centerfield genaralsmanship. Faults condisered, there was also some loud upside to his game that the Yankees couldn't help him translate or - perhaps more accurately, that the Yankees failed to capitalize on.

It was painful watching Florial's development. I always thought he'd make…


Mar 12

once you assert that Cashman had no easy way of trading Stanton, there remains only to admit that Cashman indeed brought in a first-water bat-first option perfectly able to replace Giancarlo at DH for 2024.

doing so cost a fair amount of young pitching

and it seems possible that the Yankees and Cashman erred in placing their faith in the acquisition of Yamamoto.

they understood that the asking price for established MLB free agent starters would be higher than they thought desirable and instead spent their resources in bolstering the offense and outfield,

Mar 12
Replying to

a great season for Stanton would be so unexpected and so immensely gratifying

that it might cause the fans and the organization's management to get starry-eyed and simple

might mean that after the parade they'll fail to pay the 1.5 Billion to Boras' boy


Mar 12

This will sound crazy coming from me, but i think he did a good job position player wise. They now have decent balance in lineup, added speed and defense in the field. Having said that, the pitching staff, specifically the starting rotation is cole and a bunch of question marks. Now that cole is a question mark, they are exposed and look average at best. So, no it wasn't planned well, IMO.

Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Mar 13
Replying to

Of the 4 players you mentioned, Soto has an excellent chance of driving in even the bad baserunners, so I would not rank him as a "true three outcome" player, like the other three. The others, pitchers will have to make a "mistake" because the other three are "mistake" hitters. Personally, I like to have "speedsters" at the top of the lineup ahead of the big boppers, because even the THREAT that they will steal, whether or not they will actually steal, will be enough to cause the pitcher to make more "mistakes" to the "mistake power hitters" in the lineup, since the base stealing threat will take away some of the pitchers focus on the dangerous hitters.


Mar 12

Firstly, Peraza does have another option year. It was granted in January, along with 4th years for Gil & Gomez.

Secondly, despite his struggles (though he did get 3 hits the other day), I’d be shocked if Cabrera doesn’t make the team. He’s the only backup on the 40 man who can play SS. Barring a trade or the release of someone, he’s pretty much a lock.

Lastly, pitching wasn’t our main problem last season. We got solid contributions from Brito, Vasquez, Weaver, etc. but lost a lot of their games because we couldn’t hit. They were far more solid than the innings provided by Rodon, Cortes & especially Severino. This Spring Beeter is pitching lights out and I’d exp…

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Mar 12
Replying to

Once Peraza deals with his shoulder issue, he'll need a long rehab assignment with plenty of reps. He's a distant and flickering star, very dim these days. But I have hope that he'll be back up at some point and able to help. If Volpe gets intured, who plays SS, if not Peraza? Oswald is still a key guy for 2024, even with Lombard and Arias in the system as their ETA's are further out.

Your'e right about Cabrera. He's the best utility man option at this point. He might make the team now that Oswald is out. Also, I agree on Vasquez and Weaver, but Brito sucked last season, his ERA Minus was a 151.

Noone can argue that…


Mar 12

When Jonathan Loaisiga first arrived on the scene in the majors, he was a starter and a very good one. I was very surprised when he came back from the first of the many injuries he would encounter, that he was relegated to the bullpen. He would certainly be worth a shot to return him to the starting rotation to where he made his successful major league debut.

As far as a backup 1B to Anthony Rizzo, there is a lot of concern about Aaron Judge playing CF and many want to see him return to a corner outfield spot, due to concerns about "wear and tear" on Judge and also concern about more seriously injuring his now chronically injured…

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Mar 13
Replying to

Wow! Thanks for sharing that Jeff. Zowy, I had no idea that happened.

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