Is it fair to say that it’s never too early to start thinking about offseason transactions? Well, when you’re talking about one of the best left-handed starting pitchers to reach the free agent market in the last 10 years, I’d say that, yes, it’s fair.

Cole Hamels is the guy I’m talking about, and, unless the Phillies manage to work out an extension (something they are still working on), he’ll be available for teams to bid on come November. He sports a career 3.38 ERA, 126 ERA+, 1.138 WHIP, and 3.17 FIP over 1187.2 innings. He’s been quite good, and, at 28, there’s still a lot of life left in that arm. Wouldn’t he look pretty nice as an offseason free agent target? Wouldn’t he look even better taking the ball for the Cubs in early April 2013?

Though he’s not ready concede that he’ll test free agency, and the Cubs are unwilling to confirm future plans, Hamels does admit that the possibility of pitching in Chicago intrigues him. From the Sun-Times:

“[If the Phillies] don’t view me or see me in their plans, then obviously I have to go outside to look, and the Cubs would be a team I would be more than happy to [consider],” he told the Sun-Times, “just because of the fact the city hasn’t won, they’re a baseball town, like Philly, and I think seeing Theo there, obviously trying to build a team, that shows they do want to win, which obviously excites anyone.”

The key is that likelihood of winning, which Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, said is a priority for him, whether he stays in Philadelphia or becomes a free agent.

“I think they’re starting to get some good young talent, and that’s kind of what we did, and how we won,” he said of a Phillies team that has been to the playoffs for five consecutive years, including the 2008 championship and 2009 NL pennant. “We built around home-grown talent and then got a few good pieces to [add to] it. That’s where you have to start. And if that’s what the Cubs are doing, then they have a good vision.

“And anybody that ever has the opportunity to play for that city and win in that city, they’ll take that memory forever, and a lot of people would be really jealous that they weren’t part of that team.’’

It’s certainly nice that the Cubs have an additional selling point – be a part of history.

Given the Cubs’ organization’s current makeup, however, does signing Hamels make sense? Are they going to be in a position to “go for it” in 2013? Do they have to be ready to “go for it” by 2013 in order to consider signing Hamels?

And, another corollary: does the team’s plan for Matt Garza impact the decision?

It would be easy to say that the Matt Garza story will dovetail with the Cubs’ anticipated pursuit of Hamels. After all, both will be 29 next year, and why would you sign one after trading the other?

I’m not so sure it’s that simple. You can only trade a guy when you have him, and you can only sign a guy when he’s available. The Cubs could believe they can improve the team overall by trading Garza, regardless of what happens to the rest of the team. It’s conceivable that the Cubs could pick up two ML-ready starting pitchers with high upside (plus other prospects) who could help the team in 2013, and, combining that with the $10 million saved, which could go to another free agent, there might be a net improvement on the field in 2013. If that’s true, signing Hamels is a decision to be made completely independently of the Garza decision.

It is superficially attractive to have both pitchers in the rotation going forward, but it might not be best for the organization as a whole, particularly when considering that the offensive core of the team is going to be some six years younger than Garza/Hamels (Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are 22, Brett Jackson is 23, for examples). It might be financially best to have only one of those two starting pitchers signed long-term as a “veteran ace.” If that’s true, then you’ve got a choice: you can have Garza on a long-term deal, or you can have Hamels on a long-term (more expensive) deal PLUS the prospects netted by trading Garza.

I’m not necessarily advocating trading Garza, mind you. I’m simply saying I don’t see a connection between the decision to trade or not trade Garza, and signing Hamels. There are scenarios where trading Garza this Summer and then signing Hamels in the Winter make sense. Indeed, in some of those scenarios, the Cubs come out better than if they’d tried to lock them both up long-term. But, don’t misunderstand me: it would be pretty sweet to have both.

As for Hamels, specifically, I’m very, very hopeful that the Cubs go all out on trying to sign him. With teams increasingly trying to lock up their own players with long-term extensions, there may be fewer and fewer opportunities to acquire ace-caliber pitchers for only money. And, even if the Cubs aren’t ready to compete in 2013, you’ve got to sign these guys when they’re available. Getting Hamels in December is as much about 2014 and beyond as it is about 2013.

Make no mistake, though: the contract would be ugly. Hamels is going to get an absurd contract – 8 to 10 years and more than $200 million isn’t out of the question, given the latest trends. This is the way the business is moving, however, and we’re going to have to adjust to a “new normal.”

  • Rice Cube

    The other guy who is potentially available is Zack Greinke. Greinke has periods of “WTFness” but for the most part is a solid pitcher.

    I think they would likely hold on to Garza until they determine whether or not Hamels is even available. If they don’t sign Hamels (and/or Greinke), Garza is a logical extension candidate. Even if they do sign the big guns, they might still keep Garza around.

    The counterpoint is that guys like Hamels and Greinke will require the forfeiture of draft picks in compensation even under the new CBA, so the Cubs could be coughing up their 2013 second- and/or third-round picks. That would complicate things slightly and may actually entice them to trade Garza for a prospect package in order to make up for that potential loss.

    • Brett

      Greinke’s anxiety issue scares me, mostly because I don’t know a whole lot about it.

      • Rice Cube

        I honestly don’t think Greinke’s anxiety is an issue, at least if you read more into it like when Joe Posnanski blogs about it. The bigger issue for me is if they want to build/rebuild, they need those draft picks and that seems like a significant deterrent to major free agent signings. They did get rid of the A/B designation so they can sign some mid-tier guys, but they’d have to be dead sure they can do this sooner rather than later if they are willing to forfeit those picks to get elite pitching.

        • Joe

          I think it’s an issue in a media market like Chicago. A big one. I’m not bashing the guy — he’s got great courage to tell the world what he’s fighting, and I wish him the best and would love to have him on the team, only I’m afraid the pressure cooker could kill him. :( Chi-town is not the same as KC, or Milwaukee.

          • Rice Cube

            I imagine that if the Cubs were serious about trying to get Greinke (assuming he’s not extended by the Brewers) they would put safeguards in place and ensure a good support system unlike whatever the F Hendry did with Milton Bradley.

            • Joe

              LOL – one would hope!

        • hansman1982

          The draft picks would only benefit the Cubs if someone like Garza were to leave via free agency. In that case, I would much rather trade Garza. Other than that, the Cubs do not have a guy on the roster that is likely to get the $$ needed for the Cubs to gain the picks.

          Teams no longer lose picks for signing big time free agents…if I remember correctly.

          • Rice Cube

            The compensation system changed but compensation still occurs if the free agent-to-be is offered a one-year contract for $12.5MM or more and refuses it. There is no more A/B classification though.

      • Mrp

        Yeah, his anxiety issues and his numbers at Wrigley both scare me. Those two very well may be connected to one another.

        • Rice Cube

          He’s only had two starts at Wrigley Field. I think there’s a chance you might be right, but maybe it’s also good to wait for more data to come in.

      • Richard Nose


      • King Jeff

        It scares me because of his atrocious home/road splits. He is good in Milwuakee, borderline terrible everywhere else. The idea of him pitching at Wrigley for the Cubs in a pressure situation gives me a Marmol-esque feeling.

      • jr5

        I don’t think the market or media or anything like that really has an effect, based on personal experiences.

        That sort of thing isn’t a matter of being able to go be a major league pitcher in Kansas City or Milwaukee but not being able to do it in Chicago or New York; it’s a matter of being able to leave your house or get out of bed. You’re either functional or you’re not.

        Now, what I’m not saying is that he’ll be totally fine the rest of his career, although the fact that he’s overcome it and has had no issues in the past few seasons is enough that I’d bet on him being fine. But I have a hard time believing that playing in Chicago would be the tipping point.

    • KoyeHilsucks

      I don’t think Greinke would pitch as good with the pressure of a new city + big contract… I would stay away. imo

  • KoyeHilsucks

    I am against trading Garza(unless you can get a couple of top prospects). I can see him maintaining his current form for 5-6 years. Why trade him when this team is expected to contend in 2014?? Adding hamels would be a great 1-2.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Moreover, look at how the Rays fared from trading Garza.  Between leaving the Cubs and their HoF inductions, things went south pretty quickly for the “future.”  HY Lee has not hit for a lick in 2/3rds of a season in AA.  Chris Archer is so wild that he could walk Shawon Dunston Sr. with his eyes shut.  Sam Fuld had 15 games of fame.  Brandon Guyer plays like a 4th OFer and Chirinos (who was not young) has been out with a concussion.

      • Brett

        Come on now. If we worked hard enough, I suspect we could find an example of a trade that DID work out for the team that got prospects…

        There is no clear cut yes or no on trading guys like Garza. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But it can be the right move when it’s made if your organization is in the right position to make it.

        • Andrew

          Indians trade bartolo colon to montreal for brandon phillips, cliff lee, and grady sizemore. It’s far from the norm but it definitely can be a solid move.

          • Brett

            There are many examples.

          • TonyP

            I recently read an article stating Montreal made that trade assuming they were going to get contracted so the future of the prospects didn’t mean anything to them.

        • MaxM1908

          I’d have to see the proposed trades, but to me, I always think back to that saying involving birds, hands, and bushes.

          • Brett

            You’re a pervert.

            • Richard Nose

              These threads are turning into gutter filth! jk

            • Joe

              LOL some more…

            • Rice Cube

              I’m going to think more cleanly and suggest that this is a reference to the “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” idiom…

              • Brett

                I know. You’re new to commenting, RC, but I like to joke around…

                (See, that right there! That was joking around, too!)

                • Rice Cube

                  Sarcasm font, please 😀

            • MaxM1908

              Brett! Children read this site! Infants in their mothers’ arms peruse your posts with rapt attention! Innocent orphans, bright-eyed and sinless cling to your every word with the hope that they, too, can someday be a master of all things Cubs. Please keep this site G-rated. Think of the children, Brett! The CHILDREN!!!

              • Katie

                This made me guffaw in a most unladylike manner!

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Oh, don’t get me wrong: there are cases where the trade has worked out well for the “unloading” team.  For example, the DBacks did get Chris Young from the ChiSox for Javier Vazquez.  However, they seem to be in the minority.  ESPN had an article earlier this season showing just how lousy the returns have been on most deals involving big-name pitchers.  (Vazquez figures prominently there, too: Tyler Flowers probably won’t amount to much!)

          My real point is that, 18 months ago, a lot of people opined that the Cubs gave the Rays multiple “studs” for Garza: and there is a very real chance that none of them are going to become studs.  The Rays FO is about as savvy as they get, too: so it can happen to anybody.

          • Norm

            Yes, I remember arguing with people who thought the Cubs game up more for Garza than MIL gave up for Greinke (Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi, and that pot smoking relief pitcher)

            • TWC

              Wait, I was traded for Greinke?

              I’d say Kansas City made out like bandits.

              • King Jeff

                I would have made a hippy joke here, but I never realized that you were a relief pitcher.

                • TWC

                  There are hippie jokes? I’m not sure that’s possible.

    • Joe

      I don’t think anyone feels Garza should go for anything less than multiple top prospects. Especially with the way he’s ripping it up this year! Anybody suggesting otherwise is trolling.

  • Ryan Wirtz

    Get Dempster to waive his no trade clause at the deadline to get pitching prospects and then get Hamels to replace him…would be a big step in the right direction.

    • Joe

      My bet is that Ryan sticks around next year, taking a one-year contract with a hometown discount in order to keep his family (and their foundation) going in Chicago. He’ll slide to our #2 starter in 2013 (unless we snag Hamels, in which case, playoffs here we come!), and then we’ll see where we are in 2014. There are just too many reasons for him to stay in town. He only leaves if Theoyer and Sveum really don’t want to keep him.

  • Spencer

    “And, even if the Cubs aren’t ready to compete in 2013, you’ve got to sign these guys when they’re available. Getting Hamels in December is as much about 2014 and beyond as it is about 2013.”

    This is a key that hardly ever gets mentioned. A lot of people are like, “good thing the Cubs didn’t sign Pujols and Darvish and whomever because 2012 is lost anyway.” Yeah, well, those guys wouldn’t have gotten one year contracts. I’m not saying I would’ve wanted the CUbs to sign those guys this off season, but I’ll be disappointed if they aren’t more heavily involved in the free agent market next season.

    • Sinnycal

      I don’t know too many people who were against Darvish, and by all accounts the Cubs were among the most aggressive bidders. Pujols was just an issue of spending such an absurd amount for 10 years for a guy already in his 30’s. The emergence of Shark changes things a bit, too. If he keeps it up, adding an ace could give us the type of rotation that can carry a weak offense. You can potentially imagine a playoff ready rotation as early as next year.

  • ISU Birds

    Or you know we could replace Volstad…..

  • Stu

    Garza is a known quantity. There are not many of his kind that come along. Sign him.

    Hamels could be playing games with Philadelphia by using other teams as leverage. We have seen this play out before. A player is rumoured to be going to 3 different teams and then all of a sudden a team comes out of nowhere to snag him.

    I would be shocked if he came here now that we are being talked about.

  • Andrew

    if the cubs have Hamels and Garza on our team next year, I can all but guarantee, they would contend for the division and possibly the pennant assuming more strong moves as well. Yes we’ll still have holes, but that is the core of a top 10 staff for quite possibly the next 5-6 years and that makes all the other holes look tinier and tinier.

  • HuskerCub

    Not directly on topic, but why is the flip side of OPS not used (or at least not commonly used) for pitching. Although the quality of the defense would factor into the number, I would think knowing the total bases given up per inning pitched might be more instructive than WHIP. Both are dependent on the quality of the defense to some degree, but a whip of 1.00 might no look that good if every hit given up is a homer.

    • Rice Cube

      You can look at other things, like homers/9 IP, the number of homers given up per fly ball, line drive % etc. The pitcher doesn’t have complete control over batted balls so normally I just like to look at how many walks or strikeouts he can record. Unless he serves up a batting practice meatball, for the most part if a bat makes contact with the ball, it’s in the hands of the baseball gods where it goes.

    • hansman1982

      FIP and xFIP are my two favorite pitching stats as they look at what a pitcher can control – HR, K, BB – combine that with WHIP and you have a pretty good idea of what a pitcher is truly doing.

      OPS wouldn’t be able to take into account a pitcher having an outfield of Soriano, Campana and DeJesus behind him as balls hit to the left side would lead to a lot of doubles.

  • Fishin Phil

    “Make no mistake, though: the contract would be ugly. Hamels is going to get an absurd contract – 8 to 10 years and more than $200 million isn’t out of the question, given the latest trends. This is the way the business is moving, however, and we’re going to have to adjust to a “new normal.” ”

    I disagree with this part. Just because that is what many teams decide to do, does not make it right.

    Didn’t your mother ever have this conversation with you? : “Brett, if all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you do it too?”

    • Brett


    • DocPeterWimsey

      “Brett, if all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you do it too?”

      That’s funny: all of those Nobel Prize winning economists at U. Chicago say that the definition of “right” is what the all of the other businesses do….. 😉

    • Richard Nose

      What would happen if your ventriloquist doll thingy jumped off a bridge? jk jk jk Not trying to offend if you and the doll are tight. Just messin, had to say it!

  • josh

    hamels would be an ideal guy for the cubs to song long term, regardless of wether garza was still with the cubs or not. hes a changeup guy, which means he’ll still be effective in the later years of a 6, 7, 8 year deal. but with garza, hamels could make the cubs lethal.

    hamels, garza, samardzija, wood/volstad, mcnutt could be what our starting rotation looks like next year. rizzo, jackson and castillo will definitely be with the big league club next year to join castro as the core of the cubs position players.

    im not saying that this is a team that gets us to (or close to) a WS. im also not saying that none of the young guys (specifically mcnutt, wood and castillo) wont struggle, all im saying is that this looks like a team thats strongly moving in the right direction.

    signing hamels could be a big step in eventuallly contending.

  • morgan

    yep get Hamels and keep Garza, you have a 1, 2 punch that we havent seen before, Get a outfielder who can hit, dunno whos a free agent next year but we will need someone to replace soriano. and someone to go with campana and jackson in the of. and get a power hitting 2b to,

    • Andrew

      Cant do everything. Even with the money coming off the books next year getting an ace, a good 2b, 3b, of, closer/bullpen guys is gonna be pretty tough for any team in one offseason. The fact is the team will have to settle for some positions for example I would expect Dejesus to play right again if he continues what hes been doing.

      • morgan

        naw dejesus cant start next year, he limits the team so much, doesnt hit for power in a power position, doesnt have speed either, average defender

        • Joe

          Um, I think Andrew is right. I don’t love DeJesus, but you can’t have everything unless you’re the Yankees, and even then…. DJ is holding his own over there, at least compared to some of our bigger problem areas.

        • hardtop

          dejesus is too limited in what he can do yet camapana isnt? funny, i see tiny tony as a one dimensional player. even after his best week in the bigs, he still has one tool… beating out what would be a routine play for a base hits / a higher than average steal rate. id still rather have a hard hit double where the guy goes into second standing… statistically that kind of baseball just scores more runs than its scrappy second cousin. and though dejesus isnt a great defender, hes a step above tiny-t.

          • Brett

            I don’t necessarily disagree there, but something is worth mentioning (it’s the only thing Dusty Baker ever said that made sense to me) – speed doesn’t slump. In that way, Tony’s one skill is a hell of a great skill to have.

            • Pat

              Yeah, but a long season wears on players. Speed might not slump, but there’s almost no way Campana stays at 100% speed wise for a whole season, he’ll have little tweaks and such along the way. Most players just push through that, but I’m not sure how valuable he will be at 80 – 85%.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                “Speed might not slump”

                Or, given guys like Dee Gordon, Sam Fuld, etc., speed might very well slump!  Well, actually, it might be better to say that a lot of fast guys still are not very good at getting on base consistently: I mean, sometimes a guy just isn’t very good…..

                • SirCub

                  But they will always be valuable as a late inning pinch-runner.

                • Brett

                  Exactly – it’s not their speed that’s slumping. It’s their other abilities. Still have to be able to do a little bit of the other stuff to be worth playing.

                  Joey Gathright comes to mind.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  I agree, but it almost brings up a Catch-22 situation.  An Herb Washington is most valuable to an average team, as average teams play in the most close games.  However, an Herb Washington is a luxury that only very good teams can afford: you basically are giving up a roster spot for a 1D or (at best) 2D player; and very good teams play in as few close games as do very bad teams.  So, the more you need him, the less you can afford him, and the more you can afford him, the less that you need him.

                  • cubfanincardinalland

                    Campana is a career .304 hitter in the minor leagues. He hit .319 at Tennessee two years ago. What makes you think he can’t hit in the big leagues?

                    • SirCub

                      It’s not so much about BA as OBP (because he’ll never have a decent SLG%). Even in the minors, he wasn’t great at drawing walks (which is even harder to do in the majors (especially when you have no pop (and pitchers will go right after you))).

                    • Small Sample Size Nazi Sez

                      He trikes out nearly 20% of the time in the big leagues and doesn’t walk a lot with no power to speak of. His BABIP won’t sustain a .300 average at the big league level.

                    • hansman1982

                      Ya, I really don’t understand why opposing defenses haven’t just brought in the outfield to about 20 feet from the infield and the infield as far as is allowed. Make him burn the defense before you play normal depth.

                  • Drew

                    Campana could be the 1st ML player to force a defense to use the “rover!”

        • Drew

          “he limits the team so much, doesnt hit for power in a power position, doesnt have speed either, average defender”

          Campana will hit for much less power and is a much worse defender. He is fast, but that’s you’re idea of the difference between someone who is guaranteed a starting OF position and someone who cant start/limits the team too much?

          I understand Campana is hitting well right now, but I really dont get the fact that most of those same people have no love for Dejesus. Unlike Campana, the “sample-size” argument goes out the window; the guy has over 4000 PA during which he has an OBP of .359 and an OPS+ of 106. Not great, but slightly better than Campana’s MiLB numbers.

    • Bryan

      And then we can resurrect Babe Ruth, have him hit clean-up, issue free ice cream cones to every fan who attends a game, and on top of that, find a team willing to pay soriano about 36 mil for two years, since we’ll have to replace him and all.

      • Joe

        Sounds about right.

      • djriz

        Why trade Soriano? Under your ‘scenario’ he’d be a 50hr/50steal Gold Glove outfielder.

  • morgan

    there some decent 3 and 4 sp out there to, if we could pick up Hamels, edwin jackson, lohse, Liriano, maybe ervin santana, also Carlos Quentin would be a nice pickup for LF to replace soranio and get some power in the outfield, not much out there in terms of infield help

  • morgan

    maybe trading for david wright would be interesting to

  • Big Daddy

    Hamels is blowing smoke. He will never sign with the Cubs.

  • Kyle

    What a horrifically pointless non-story.

    “Dear potential free agent, would you like to shoot your own leverage in the foot by saying right now that you won’t consider signing with Team X if they offer you boatloads of money?”

    • Brett

      Most guys don’t say half as much as Hamels did. The “story,” and there is one, is the discussion about Hamels’ future and the Cubs’ future.

      • SirCub

        A non-story would be one where Hamels gives a non-answer: “I’ll let the Phillies’ front office, and my agent worry about that. Right now, I’m just focused on baseball, blah, blah, staying healthy, blah, 110%, blah…”

        But, he gave a non-non-answer, so we get a non-non-story.

        • BN Virgin

          Double negatives are not a no-no… or, something like that. I’m so confused…..

      • Joe

        I agree, definitely a story here. It doesn’t mean he ends up with the Cubs, and it doesn’t mean he isn’t leveraging Cubbie interest to amp up his eventual payout, but it’s worth talking about.

    • KoyeHilsucks

      C.J. Wilson said he wouldn’t want to play for the cubs when he hit free agency last year… i think it was wilson…

      • SirCub

        Haha, yea, cause of the gun laws.

  • Njriv

    With the new cap on the draft, it gives the cubs a lot of money to play with in FA, it’ll be interesting to see what happens, Hamels, Michael Bourn and Napoli are all interesting options I wish they pursue.

    • Brett

      Not sure where Napoli would play for the Cubs, though I do like his bat. Catch a little, corner outfield a little? Can he do that? Not sure he’s a fit.

      • Luke

        I’d split him between first and catcher.  Just be Rizzo should be the regular first baseman next year doesn’t mean Napoli can’t give him a day or two off a week.  That could pay off in the hottest part of the summer.

        • Brett

          Yeah, but can Napoli catch four days a week?

          I will say that once nice thing with that setup would be that a guy like Clevenger could get two starts a week, rather than one or none, and could be mixed and matched based on the opposing pitcher.

  • Noah

    I’d love for the Cubs to get Hamels, but they’re going to have to beat whatever offer the Dodgers will give him. And I’ve heard new Dodgers ownership might really open up the wallet for Hamels, a California native. I’ve be just as happy with Greinke. Anibal Sanchez could also be a nice addition for potentially significantly less money than Greinke or Hamels are likely to get.

  • Patrick

    Reasonable free agents I wouldn’t mind Cubs pursuing if available:

    C Miguel Monetero(29)
    CF BJ Upton( 28) (if Jackson can play LF or vice versa)
    LF Delmon Young (27)
    P Cole Hamels(29)
    P Edwin Jackson(29)
    P Scott Baker(31)
    P Gavin Floyd(30)
    P Anibal Sanchez (29)

    • King Jeff

      I think Delmon Young might be a crazy person, and Scott Baker just got TJ surgery, and Montero is probably a luxury we coudn’t afford right now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing any of these other guys sign with the Cubs.

  • Tyler

    Trade alfonso to TB after signing Bj upton

  • Tony S

    I still have hopes that Szczur will be in CF in 2014 meaning Jackson can move to LF or RF.
    As per Luke’s article he’s been hitting well in his last 10 games and hitting for extra bases. He’s as big a threat on the bases as Campana and is a better fielder. Of all our prospects he’s one I see as potentially having a big, big impact, especially after watching the effect that Campana getting on base has had on the other team’s recently.

  • Jackalope

    Just wait another year until 2014 free agency where another lefty prize awaits: Bruce Chen, baby!

  • ReiCow

    The more I see Garza succeed for the Cubs, and particularly pitch lights out at Wrigley, the less I want to trade him. It is so rare to get someone that Uber at Wrigley, that I don’t think we will ever get actual equal value in trade. Singing someone really great is no guarantee at our park, and I really feel that Garza is a bird in the hand that is worth more than many in the bush (even pajama-ed).


    • rcleven

      Front office probably does not want no trade. Deal would have been done without it. Don’t hold your breath.

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