Post-Deadline Analysis: How the Cubs did and where they go from here

Well, that was a whirlwind week.  I've gotten about 6-7 hours of sleep combined the last two days.  At some point, I'm probably going to crash but so far so good.  Now that we've had a day to digest everything, let's take a look back...

How the Cubs did

I'd give them a B+ for their performance under trying circumstances.  They managed to trade their starting C Geovany Soto, their 4th OF'er in Reed Johnson, and two starting pitchers in LHP Paul Maholm and RHP Ryan Dempster.  

The key player coming back is 21 year old RHP Arodys Vizcaino who, despite his recent TJ surgery, is head and shoulders above any current Cubs pitching prospect.  He is easily the best prospect the Cubs received yesterday and likely the only one with big impact potential.  If healthy, Vizcaino can be a front line starter.  One MLB source told me mid-rotation or closer while Keith Law thinks he can be a #2, maybe more.  Those who lament not getting Randall Delgado should note that most regard Vizcaino as the pitcher with the higher ceiling.  Before the season, Law had him ranked as the 14th best prospect in all of baseball while ranking Delgado at #98.  The advantage with Delgado is the higher floor and the fact that he could help right away.

The next best prospect coming back is 21 year old 3B Christian Villanueva.  Villanueva isn't an elite prospect, but he's top 10 caliber and has a chance to be an all-around 3B who does a little of everything.  There's a bit of a logjam now as far as 3Bs in the system with Baez, Candelario, Vitters, and Lake all expected to play that position long term.  Villanueva has an advantage in that he is the most accomplished defender of the group, though Baez has a chance to pass him when and if he moves from SS.  The Rangers toyed with the idea of moving him to 2B as well, where his bat is a potential plus.

The Cubs received 3 other pitchers to add to the depth in their system, the best of which is 22 year old RHP Kyle Hendricks, who doesn't have elite stuff but has a deep repertoire and excellent command.  That, along with an advanced approach and feel on the mound gives him shot to be a back end starter rather quickly.

The next best arm is RHP Joel Brigham who has excellent arm strength but his command and secondaries lag behind a bit.  He has been capable of reaching as high as 97 mph but often works more in the 92-93 range.  He's been starting for Texas and the Cubs may keep him in the rotation for now, but his long-term role is probably in the bullpen where his fastball may jump a tick or two.

The last pitcher, RHP Jaye Chapman, is more of your borderline major leaguer who may move up and down a bit as we've seen some other bullpen arms do for the Cubs this year.  His best pitch is his change but his control isn't at the level you'd like for a finesse guy.

The Cubs didn't have a whole lot of leverage because of Dempster's 10-5 rights and Matt Garza's injury, but they did well under the circumstances.  They added a true front line starter prospect -- something that isn't easy to do even in the most ideal situation -- along with a possible starting infielder in Christian Villanueva and some pitching depth.

Where do they go from here

The August waiver trading period doesn't have the same kind of drama that the non-waiver deadline does, but the Cubs could move some players during that time.

There was some talk by people I respect that Alfonso Soriano was discussed with the Detroit Tigers but a source of mine did not express optimism that he would be traded this season.  Later, Dave Dombrowski refuted that the Tigers had any interest.  Tom Loxas also spoke to a well-placed source that said the Giants, despite another rumor, didn't have any interest either.  He'll certainly pass through waivers as no team will want to  give the Cubs the leverage to say, "Give us such and such prospect or eat that contract".  He'll slide through without a passing glance and the Cubs will once again try and find a taker.  The more likely scenario to me is that he finishes the season here in Chicago.  He's on pace to hit .270 with a passable .320 OBP and around 30 HRs.  With only two years left on the deal, those numbers will make it easier to deal him in the offseason.  The one thing that may change this is an injury to a middle of the order hitter on a contending team.

Matt Garza will not pass through waivers and the only way he gets dealt is if he slides to a team who needs him and the Cubs are able to work out a deal, which is extremely unlikely.  It's more likely a team will take him simply to block him from going anywhere else and the Cubs will have to pull him back off waivers.  A Garza deal is a much bigger possibility in the offseason.  Teams looking to acquire him are mostly doing it because of the 2013 control and the potential comp pick anyway and the Cubs can greatly increase the pool of teams to negotiate with by waiting until the winter meetings.

A source told me that the most likely big name player to be dealt in August might be Carlos Marmol.  For one thing, nobody is going to want that contract so he'll probably pass through.  The other big factor is that teams always seem to need bullpen help late in the season.  It's quite possible, given Marmol's recent success and the fact that he still has excellent arm strength, that some team will take him on if the Cubs pay part of the freight.

Other possibilities include useful role players with expiring contracts such as Jeff Baker and Sean Camp.  Bryan LaHair is another possibility.

As far as where the Cubs go on the field, they'll field a team that will probably struggle as they try to find out what pieces fit short and long term.  Expect players like Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Dave Sappelt and Alberto Cabrera to get a look this September when rosters expand.

We'll also take a deeper look at how the organization has improved when we put up a new top prospect list either later today or early tomorrow.


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  • I like the trade and I agree 100% John, Arodys Vizcaino is much better prospect than Delgado, if healthy. All and all, I like what the Cubs did

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Ceiling is higher.Delgado probably a mid-rotation guy. Vizcaino has a chance to be more...but also a chance to be less. I think it's a worthwhile gamble.

  • I've a bit of an oddball question here. More often than not when we talk about the trade of a player there is mention of the originating team being on the hook for part or all of thier salary. Case in point the Rangers are covering Dempsters salary but the Cub's are covering Soto's. My question is whether or not we have anyone on the Cub's who's salary is covered by another team if not do you foresee us having anykind of leverage in the near future to swing these types of deals?

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    At first mental glance through the Cubs roster, I don't believe they've got anyone on the club being paid for by another team. You can add Carlos Zambrano to the list of players that the Cubs are currently paying, but not on the club.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Knew about Zambrano and I'm sure there are a number of others that aren't popping into my head right now. I guess I'm kind of wondering how this process plays out across the game. IE is it more prevelent for a club who tends to bring in veteran ballplayers or does the process come into play even if you are bringing in the younger guys.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    Then there was the crawl yesterday that Z is going to the bullpen. I guess Ozzie figured out what the Cubs did, except the Marlins are not paying the freight.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    You mean having another team take on salary? They probably already do have the ability to do that, but their preference is to pay it themselves and get better prospects.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yep John that's what I was talking about but I probably didn't say it very well. I guess I'm just old and slow in the head but sometimes it seems counter-intuitive to trade a player who is a proven commodity making x+++ dollars for an unproven albeit major league possible guy and still end up paying the majority of the salary of the veteran. I feel as if the team who is making a run at the playoffs and needs that veteran to shore up thier lineup should be taking on the lions share of the financial responsibility.

  • Soriano will be a Cub at least till the July 2013 trade deadline. He's not blocking any prospects. And there are no teams who are willing to pay a big enough portion of salary to make it worthwhile to deal him. Finally, there's the no-trade clause for a guy who seems to like Chicago.

    Plus, if we got rid of Soriano, then for 2013 we'd be in the market for a right-handed hitting LF who can be placed in the middle of the lineup but who can be benched or shipped out the moment we decide a prospect is ready. That's Soriano to a tee!

  • In reply to Taft:

    I agree completely. With Jackson seemingly regressing, there is no outfielder in the Cubs system ready to take over. You don't just replace 25-30 homers and 85+ RBI that easily. If nothing else, he provides some protection for Rizzo in the lineup. I'm more than okay keeping Soriano for the length of his contract.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Ha! I like that perspective.

  • I think there are many of us that are suffering from a trade deadline hangover. Thanks again for all of your hard work at keeping us on top of all the Cubs news, and for the analysis.

    I think you give a fair and realistic grade, John. I've heard people complaining about not getting Delgado, or that what we've got in return isn't much, but it is what it is. Dempster has two months left on his contract. Soto has underachieved the past two seasons. Maholm, while having a very good season, is still a pitcher with a career win percentage under .500. Reed Johnson is a great role player, but he is not an everyday player.

    One thing to keep in mind. Dempster was signed by the Cubs after having undergone Tommy John surgery. He ended up having a pretty decent career in Chicago. I find that encouraging for a guy like Vizcaino, who was a highly rated prospect. Sure, he is a risk, but he could have a huge payoff for the Cubs and Cubs fans if we are patient. With some major league experience, I would guess that his recovery time will have him competing for a spot in the rotation as early as next season.

    Chapman seems to be a bit of an afterthought, but here's another thing to consider. One of the things that this front office did was pick up arms like Camp, Ascencio, Corpas, Bowden, etc. hoping that a couple of guys might stick and be productive. Those are guys that are a minimal gamble, and a couple of have worked out pretty well. I'm not sure that the Cubs are even 25 games under .500 without Camp this year. The more of those low-cost relievers you have, the better the odds that you are going to be able to piece together a good bullpen, and for the most part, the bullpen has been the weak link this season on this pitching staff.

    We maybe didn't get what we were wanting, but I think we got some usable parts, some that might pay off well.

    Plus, how can you not like guys named Villanueva and Vizcaino? I always enjoyed big Hector and Jose back in the day...

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Good old Hector. He had that one great year as a part time player. His Strat-O-Matic card was teeming with HRs.

    Thanks for the kind words and I totally agree on their approach to building the bullpen. You can probably get enough arms through failed starters in the minors (i.e. Alberto Cabrera, who just got called up) and low cost FAs from the bargain bin. When they're ready to win, maybe you pay a little for that luxury.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Probably like Kingman when he was with the Giants.
    His Strat card was all HR's and K's!

    I told my dad that if he got on the Cubs he'd hit 50 HR's.
    He didn't believe it... he thought he'd just be a big K machine.
    Turned out my forecast was pretty darn close!

  • john what are we going to do with vitters and lake when beaz comes up are they just going to sit on the bench go to the outfield or be traded?

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    Don't assume either (or any prospect, actually) will ever make the parent club. Stuff happens all the time, or else you could save a huge investment in having all those minor league teams as feeders. Even if someone did make the big club, there's no assurance they'll be any good once they make it, besides, there's nothing wrong with having depth in the minors.

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    I think SFToby answered the question nicely. Don't have much to add there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, and depth in the minors is what allowed the Rangers to swoop in on Dempster. They didn't have to touch their topmost prospects to get him, as the Dodgers balked at doing. The Rangers' system is a testament to building the organization solid from the ground up.

  • At some point does the front office make a determination as to which positions have prospects ready to contribute at the major league level and which positions have prospects that are best served with minor league time and in the off season sign short term major leaguers to make the team at least competitive. Either they go completely young and let these guys grow at the major league level or if the belief is that it would be detrimental to the long term to have the prospects up on the major league team, shouldn't the front office sign at least some talent to 2 or 3 year contracts to make the major league team better and provide a better atmosphere when the youngsters are called up without sacrificing flexibility to bring up successful prospects and the long term vision for the organization. At this point the only players due to make significant money next year are Garza and Soriano and many of the prospects can expect at least two to three years in the minors as we rebuild from the ground up. Or am I one of the uninformed fans that clamors for a short term fix?

  • In reply to Dean:

    I think it just means more deals like the one for DeJesus and Maholm. Yes, you bring in some short-term bandaids to fill spots where your prospects are not yet ready, but you don't commit long-term to those average players. You do have to at least appear competitive to keep butts in the stands while the kids grow up.

  • In reply to Dean:

    the cubs will suck the next few years but we would only sign talent like maholm and trade them for prospects. look at this side if we suck we get a very good draft pick maybe number one. wouldnt barney wood shark castro in 2-3 years be considered vets they could show the prospects what to do

  • In reply to Dean:

    I think you pretty much described what their plan is going to be for the next year or two. Expect more signings like DeJesus and Maholm in the short term, then expect them to make a big move when they feel the team is on the cusp.

    This team will still sign FAs, but they won't build the team that way. There's also the possibility they'll take flyers on past buy low former top young talents like Ian Stewart and Chris Volstad -- hopefully with better success. But if you can just find a player or two that way, it's a big boost to your rebuild without spending. But they'll spend eventually, trust me on that one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Great coverage as usual. What are the expectations for Ian Stewart? Is there hope that the wrist surgery will give him a chance to compete for 3B next year?

  • I think that the Cubs need to seriously consider moving Villanueva to second. He doesn't project to have the power to stay at 3rd, yet with a very strong glove and some athleticism he should not only be able to transition to second, he could become a huge plus at second.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    I hope so. Would like to find out how he did when TX tinkered with it last fall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    According to Baseball Reference, he played second in 4 games, had 17 chances, 0 errors, one double play and his rf/g was 4.25. Small sample size but you have to assume the Cubs would give it some serious thought. What I love is the Cubs aren't married to one prospect anymore. Depth is going to be key in order to get good major leaguers. If two guys are deserving, the less deserving one is traded for more prospects.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    There's nothing wrong with Villanueva's power. He hit 17 HRs as a 20 year old in a full season league, and is on pace to do about the same this year.

    If you take all the guys in the majors right now on pace to hit 25+ HRs, roughly half of them had not shown as much power as Villanueva at the same age. A lot of power hitters don't develop significant power until about age 23-25. And even if he can continue to hit around 15-20 per year, that's okay for a 3Bman.

    I'd like to see them keep him at 3B if he's good defensively there.

  • Nice analysis, John. Seems to jive with what some of the national guys (Callis, Law, Goldstein) are saying.

    Any indication if Villanueva will assume starting 3B duties from Cerda? Looking forward to reading your write-ups tracking his (and the other "new" guys) progress the rest of the season!

  • I'm not into the hot stove league, and glad that the deadline has passed (although waiver deals will still be discussed).

    My real concern was that last night's game (as televised) was somewhere between the NBA deadline, where half the team was traded to another, and neither group of 5 players could suit up, to a funeral. Then Casey Coleman is dragged out and gives up a grand slam in the first, and the ballgame was over, except for those interested in seeing if Pittsburgh would get a no hitter. If that's the entertainment value of the rest of the season, they sure are going to lose a lot of customers. Maybe the old timers were right that fans will not pay to see AA ball (or probably worse) during a rebuilding. We shall see.

  • In reply to jack:

    The Cubs probably are set for the rest of the year financially, so they're willing to take a bit of a hit, although the park will likely have quite a few empty seats in September.

    It's something they'll probably have to juggle somewhat, but look for them to stick to their plan for the large part. That's why they came here.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I was at the game Monday night. It was a very festive crowd, that was really into the ball game. I was especially impressed with the amount of young fans, 20's, and under who were there. Talked with a lot of them, fans know this is going to take time. Watching young players like Rizzo, Castro, Barney, Samardjiza, Russell, etc. can be a lot of fun. A whole lot more fun to watch than the team that was on the field the previous two seasons.

  • Soriano will be traded at some point, I just can't see him in Cubs uniform next year. I agree with John, if anybody is traded , it will be Marmol and maybe Baker.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    The problem with trading Soriano is that we don't have anybody ready to replace him, and the Cubs will have to pay the bulk of his salary anyway. If you already know that you're going to have to pony up $18 million for Soriano (whether in Cubs uniform or otherwise), then you might as well keep him and have the production. They aren't going to have anybody come in to put up his numbers without adding to that money owed.

  • My buddy down in Dothan, Alabama says that Vizcaino was making hitters look silly down there in the Southern League last season. Says he has electric stuff. The young man pitched and did not get embarrased last year in the big leagues, at 20 years old. Possible great pickup.
    Not sure I get the whole trade Soriano concept. It appears that he really is not going to bring back a projectable major league player, and you would get very little salary relief. What is the point? If he was blocking a young player from the lineup, I understand. But who would be out there in his place. Jeff Baker? Joe Mather?
    Even putting Jackson in the lineup every day, what does that give you. Jackson, LaHair(is he a long term solution?) and DeJesus. And Sori is not a bad guy in the clubhouse, works hard and has a good attitude.
    Also, any chance the Cubs bring back Reed next year? Seems to me like a great veteran to have on a young club.

  • Sweet..thanks for posting that on Vizcaino.

    I do agree with your point on Soriano. Unless you're going to save a lot of money or get worthwhile prospects, there's not much use. It's not like he's Soto who isnt producing and you have two young catchers behind him.

  • Love the site, first time poster.
    You have written about Theo & Jed looking for creative ways to spend more $$ on young talent while also complying with the new CBA. It seems their strategy is to sign free agents with the full intent of trading them for prospects while also picking up most of the free agents remaining salary. This is beneficial for lower budget teams that have more prospects than $$. It also beneficial for the Cubs in that it provides a way to convert $$ into prospects. Do you think this is becoming an explicit strategy? It seems like a great way to get around the CBA restrictions. Are there limitations that would prevent how much salary a team can pay for a player they have traded for cheap prospects.

  • In reply to SF Cubs Fan:

    Thanks SF Cubs Fan!

    I think it is a strategy. I don't know how explicit they want to make it since it may affect their ability to draw FAs. Then again, if you're a player that wants to get decent money and then have the chance to join a contender by the end of the year, maybe it's not so bad.

  • I have a question to pose: If the Cubs would have packaged Dempster and Soto (perhaps including another piece as needed, but these two being the headliners), could the Cubs have had any chance at Olt?

    Just curious, as, in my opinion, if they could have, then I feel that the FO whiffed a bit at the trade deadline. But I'm not versed enough in the relative vaues of players, as some are here, to know whether that could have been even reasonable.

    If it would have been, then having a future IF of Rizzo, Olt, Casto,and Barney (or insert future prospect rising up thru the minors), along with an OF including some of Soler, BJaxx, Almora, etc, would have been nice to see.

    Anyways, interested in comments around this.


  • In reply to Steve4cash:

    i think the front office went after pitching, we have a couple of people that could be at the hot corner Vitters will come up some time, Lake, and beaz who has a tremendous skill set who i wouldnt want olt blocking if beaz is ready to MLB

  • In reply to Steve4cash:

    No chance on Olt. Soto has very little value and doesn't add much to a deal at this point.

  • this is an off topic question but what happened to reggie golden? what has he been injured that has kept him out since May i think and isnt it possible for him to be in out outfield in future

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    Really bad hamstring injury. Really hurts him more than it would some other prospects because he's so raw and needs the development time.

  • Thanks for the great post, John. Better go catch up on some sleep....and buy your wife a nice gift for putting up with the trade deadline.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Haha! I think that would be a good idea :)

  • Thanks for all the updates over the past couple weeks John, it was kind of a weird situation in many ways for team Theo and obviously some players.

    Just a few FINAL thoughts on Demp, and to a lesser extent Soriano and what may or may not have transpired. I heard Dempster on ESPN today, and he said that he did not actually say no to any trades. That is one way to frame it. Another way would be that he refused to agree to the ATL deal within a reasonable time frame, essentially forcing the Braves to move on publicly. Personally, I respect Dempster as a pitcher, and his teammates and coaches have had nothing but good things to say about him. I just wish he would stop the rhetoric, and admit that he knew what he was doing when he refused to go to Atlanta while waiting on a crappy Dodgers deal. I know it doesn't really matter anymore, but just saying.

    Also, interesting to note how Hoyer (also on ESPN radio) went out of his way to say that he appreciated the way Soriano handled the trade deadline situation. He basically said they discussed a list of teams, and Soriano told them where he would and would not go. I belive this could be interpreted as a bit of a backhand shot at Dempster. Jed also made it clear that team Theo was in constant contact with Dempster while negotiating with the Braves, so the "blindside" thing is out the window. Oh well.

    Thanks again for the around the clock coverage near and on the deadline, looking forward to reading about some new players in the system.

  • In reply to JC 2012:

    I don't know if you've seen it, but there is an article up on where Theo addresses the Dempster/Braves trade attempt. Theo basically said that Dempster was asked to consider a trade to Atlanta a day or so before the two clubs hammered out the deal, then had about 1 hour to consider the move before the info broke.

    Theo also says that Dempster was present when they were talking to the Dodgers, and when he heard how the dealings were going, told Theo that he would consider more teams and was even involved in a bit of the trade process.

    In all likelihood, Theo is helping a respected member of the the team for many years save some of his reputation, and it's not the complete truth (Dempster had more than enough notification to know that Atlanta was a possibility), but it does shed a little bit of light on the situation. If Theo was "livid" about the failed trade, he certainly does a good job at hiding it with his comments, and is doing right for his former player. Certainly not a repetition of bad-mouthing that went on in Boston after certain players/employees left that organization.

  • In reply to JC 2012:

    Thanks JC! Agreed on your take on Dempster and how the FO felt about it. Seemed to me that there was a lot of frustration beneath the surface on the part of Theo and Jed.

    On the bright side, they did wind up getting Vizcaino out of it. I asked Keith Law who he preferred, injury included, and he still said Vizcaino.

  • While I'm disappointed in the return for Soto, the fact is that he's having his third poor season out of five years in the bigs and it was a case of selling low unfortunately to clear a spot for Castillo. That said, since his production was so good in 2008 and 2010, I would have rather seen them grab a high risk-high reward player instead of a fringy pitcher who is so doubtful to even make the majors.

    The return for Dempster IMO is solid considering the lack of leverage the FO was faced with. The biggie for me was getting Vizcaino for Maholm. I read some comments about keeping Maholm as a good value for the money, but I was also thinking he was a case of selling high and that is exactly what the Cubs did. He was having probably the best run of his career. I'm very excited to see what Vizcaino can do in another year or so. He's exactly the sort of high impact prospects we need more of. When was his TJ surgery anyways?

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    The move saved them some money and opened up a spot...I think Brigham will probably reach the majors at some point, and if he sticks it's a bonus.

    Vizcaino is the exciting pickup. He's the impact player in all of this. Not easy to get potential front line guys. He had surgery early this year and he's expected to be ready for spring.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Awesome...I saw that Vizcaino hadn't pitched this year but threw 97 innings in 2011 so I was hoping he'd had the surgery late last year or very early this year. I can't wait to see him in camp next spring and assume he will be in AAA or possibly AA if he hasn't sufficiently recovered by then and struggles some as a result.

  • Heard a great interview on the radio with Jon Daniels, the GM for the Rangers. He was highly complimentary of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, concerning the deals they made with them. Talked about the Cubs really did their homework on the Rangers prospects. He said most teams just went down "the Baseball America Handbook prospect list" for the Rangers in their discussions for trades.
    He said they were not going to give up their top prospects, like Olt, Profar or Perez. But the Cubs really went to the meat, you could really tell they had scouted extremely well. Hated to give up all three of the players and he cringed when the Cubs brought them up, especially Hendricks and Villanueva, who the Rangers had called sleepers in their system, and projected them as major league players. Sounds like we have some good eyes for talent running the club nowadays.

  • They just scout John and Tom's blog! Good stuff here. It is definitely a new dawn.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Haha! They have just a tad more info than I do :)

  • Wow. Great stuff Cubbie Ron!

  • Good stuff. Thanks for posting it.

  • I give them a solid B too. I prefer Vizcaino to Delgado. I'm curious who you would have preferred for Dempster though, John - Villanueva and Hendricks or Allen Webster straight up? I was thinking Webster at first, till I found out Webster was BA #95 and Villanueva was only five spots behind at #100, post 2011. AND we got Hendricks on top of that, who as you guessed, I really dig.

  • John, what do you think the plan is for Vizcaino when he's ready to pitch again? He only has 8 starts above A ball, and the new Cubs FO seems to prefer to give guys their reps at AAA. Do you think they'll give him 2-3 months of AA to regain his form and then a year of AAA once he's fully back? Or do you think they'll make him a reliever and try to move him faster? If he's a starter, who do you think will be in the Cubs' rotation first, Vizcaino or Hendricks?

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    On Soriano - if the Cubs can trade him for good prospects now they should do so. He is playing very well. His value is unlikely to be higher. And the fact they'll have to pay much of his salary is irrelevant. The team isn't going to contend next year anyway. So I don't much care if there is no one to replace his numbers right now. Get something for the future for him. Soriano is 36. It seems to me it is now or never to trade him. Go for it.

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