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Yankees agree to deal with Rafael Soriano

Jan 13, 2011, 8:52 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays v Texas Rangers, Game 4 Getty Images

Brian Cashman sure slow-played this one.

Despite insisting last week that the Yankees would not surrender their first round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft in order to sign a remaining Type A free agent, the Bombers agreed to terms on Thursday night with reliever Rafael SorianoJon Heyman of reports that the deal will be worth a whopping $35 million over three years.

Soriano said earlier this month that he would only be willing to accept a non-closer position with one team — the Yankees — because of his respect and admiration for longtime reliever Mariano Rivera.  And now he’ll get the opportunity to serve as an eighth-inning bridge to Mo for at least the next two seasons.  If Rivera decides to retire after his current two-year, $30 million contract runs out, the 31-year-old Soriano can assume closing duties for a year and ratchet up his free agent value heading into the winter of 2014.

Soriano posted a gorgeous 1.73 ERA and 0.80 WHIP over 64 appearances as the Rays’ closer last season, racking up an American League best 45 saves in 48 chances.  He has fanned a ridiculous 159 batters in his past 138 innings and has walked only 41.

All in all, he is one of the best relief pitchers in the game.

It is a crazy contract, there’s no denying that.  The money is too big and the Cashman-led Yankees are usually a bit wiser about handing out major amounts of cash and years to relievers not named Mo Rivera.  But the Yankees can afford to be a bit reckless with their cash because of their many lucrative revenue streams and there is little doubt that the move means an overall improvement for the club.

Opponents are going to have a really tough time plotting late-game comebacks against New York in 2011.

  1. Kevin S. - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    Un. Freaking. Believable. They’re paying almost $12 million/year, and surrendering their first-round pick in an absolutely loaded draft, for sixty innings per year of a pitcher who has a two-year track record of staying healthy, a worrisome penchant for giving up fly balls in a ballpark generous to home runs, and a rather large platoon split. I’m supposed to be excited about this, why?

    • jfk69 - Jan 14, 2011 at 9:53 AM

      Simple…You don’t have 170-190 million dollar payroll with a 41 year closer,albeit Rivera and decide you now going to start saving money. If that was the case,Joba would be your new closer…lol

  2. Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    Wow. That’s a lot to pay for a setup man (plus a 40% luxury tax on it). And the 31st pick in the best draft in a decade. Which goes to a TB team that already has approximately 17 silmarillion picks.

    Still, that’s a scary 8th and 9th innings, with all the usual reliever performance swing caveats.

    • JBerardi - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:11 PM

      “Which goes to a TB team that already has approximately 17 silmarillion picks.”

      That’s really something to watch. If all the Ray’s FA relievers leave, they’ve got something like 8 of the top 100 picks. In other words, rumors of the Ray’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:04 PM

        I think the Jays are going to have something like 7 of the first 70, and the Sox 4 of the first 50. (It’s starting to look as if Felipe Lopez will sign a minor league deal and Boston won’t get that extra sandwich pick, though you never know.)

        It’s going to be a good draft for MOST of the AL East teams.

      • quintjs - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:37 AM

        Ari you are quite right, amazing AL East draft next year. I have 16 of the first 58 picks going to the AL East, and that is without Lopez signing, or Balfour

      • Ari Collins - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:59 AM

        Just did the math myself and got 18 of the first 59 picks going to the Rays, Jays, and Sox. One of the two you missed might’ve been Qualls, which was recent.

        Sox have 4 of the first 40, Jays 7 of the first 71, and the Rays an INSANE 9 of 59. They should budget a few extra million for the draft, they could really really clean up.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 14, 2011 at 1:09 AM

        Another “fun” way to look at it: the Rays don’t pick until 24th, which means that those 9 picks are extremely concentrated. The Rays will have 9 picks between the 24th and 59th (so far), or 9 picks out of 36, for a total of 25% of the picks for a bit more than a round’s worth. It’s going to be Rays, pick, pick, pick, Rays, pick, pick, pick, Rays, all day long.

    • jfk69 - Jan 14, 2011 at 10:03 AM

      If you include the luxury tax the Yankees are spending 200 million a year in payroll now . Simply put..They don’t have the luxury of waiting five years for maybe two of those players to help them now. It is a vicious cycle at the top.

  3. Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 9:41 PM

    Brings the Yankees up to just under $200M. Bullpen’s gonna be something like $35M next year by my really-quick-and-very-dirty estimate.

  4. spudchukar - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    Does he have a no trade contract?

  5. lateralsymmetry - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    A question for more knowledgeable baseball people than I:

    I understand that you surrender your 1st round pick when you sign a Type A free agent, but what would happen if (for instance) the Yankees were to sign two Type A’s in one offseason? (which I believe they did a couple years back with Sabathia and Teixeira)

    • jobooo - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:49 PM

      The team with the “better” type-A free agent gets the first round pick. This is judged by the actual score given by the Elias rankings. So the Angels got the Yankees first round pick for Teixeira and the Brewers got a sandwich pick or something.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:02 PM

        The Brewers got a 2nd round pick and the Jays a third-rounder for Burnett. All three teams got sandwich picks. Really sucked for the Jays.

      • proudlycanadian - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:08 AM

        I agree Ari; however, Burnett really sucked for the Yankees.

  6. pisano - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    Good move, I like the fact that if Mo were to have a breakdown you won’t miss a beat. This guy is lights out, opposing teams had better have a lead in the late innings or it’s over. Another plus is now the Yankees can move the fat toad and maybe get some starting pitching help.

    • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:50 PM

      how do you lowball and bull*hit Jeets and then pay a guy that has 2 gddamn good yrs under his belt 12 mil a yr for 3 yrs?

    • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:08 AM

      I love the move. Finally the Yankees did something this summer to improve a weak spot in their pitching roster. It’s comical to read many of the non Yankee fans posts. First they say the Yankees don’t live by the norms of other teams because of their money and complain about it. Then when they pay more then the “conventional wisdom” says they should for a player the general comment from these same posters is their crazy paying that much. Did the Yankees pay more for him than any other team would have. Sure. But remember the Yankees are not any other team. I’ve said it before the Yankees don’t rebuild, the Yankees don’t say “wait till next year”. Next year is and has been for as long as the Steinbrenners have owned the Yankees “this year”. Would any of these so called “other” teams have paid him $6M per? Absolutely. The slightly less than $12M the Yankees agreed to is the equivalent of $6M to other teams. Again like I said previously, if the Yankees only get 2 good years out of him it still worth it. They can always bury the 3rd year of the contract. Money is not the issue for the Yankees. It’s also funny to hear fans of the Red Sox talk about the length of this contract and about the unreliability of relief pitchers and probably some of that is justified. But I don’t hear them say one thing about the 7 years for Crawford or what will be 7 years they give Gonzalez after this year. As we all know long term contracts of that length regardless if they are giving to a position player or pitcher very seldom work out for the team in the later years. One final general comment about the Yankees giving up their “prized” 31st pick in the draft. Drafting potential “future” MLB players is nice. The only problem that is see with that is the word “potential”. Also, you know why prospects are so important to low revenue teams? It’s because generally they can’t afford to keep their better players of go out and get “high” priced quality players in FA. Neither of those conditions apply to the Yankees. I’ll say it one more time. I would much rather the “bird in the hand then the one in the bush”. There are no guarantees, but if money isn’t the issue I would much prefer to have the established player then reply on a chance a prospect or draft choice may make it to the major league team sometime in the future. I know some smart non Yankee fan will bring up the fact that players like Jeter were drafted by the Yankees and where would they be today if not for those players. What they fail to either mention or purposely forget is that in the late 80″ and early 90’s the Yankees had a lot higher draft picks as opposed to now when they are constantly drafting at the back of the draft.

      To pisano – I agree with you about your comment on the possible trade implications this means as well. It certainly frees up Joba and a catching prospect for a trade for a #2 or strong #3 pitcher. Maybe that’s what the non Yankee fans fear the most about this trade or maybe it’s just because the Yankees are the Yankees.

      To phukyouk – My firend I disagree with you about the Yankees low balling Jeter. Fist I don’t think it was about the money but the years. Second I don’t consider $17M per for 3 years based on his 2010 performance and his age low balling. I also don’t consider the roughly $240M over 13 years the Yankees will have paid Jeter low balling. Currently that’s probably the 2nd or 3rd most money ever handed out to a ball player over that length of time. I don’t consider a quarter of a billion dollars pay to a ball player any ball player low balling.

      …and that’s my opinion.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 6:26 AM

      One additional comment. I’ve been keeping track of the Yankee signings Soriano, Martin, Feliciano, etc…and factoring in anticipated arbitration awards for players like Hughes, Joba and the rest I have the current Yankee opening day payroll at $192M plus or minus. That’s still about $15M less than their 2010 opening day payroll figures. More than enough to sign a #2 or #3 starting pitcher if one becomes available via trade or otherwise.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        Adding the $10 million he’s owed in 2011 to B-Ref’s estimates gives you $197.7 now. So a little less left over than you might think, but still a bit of wiggle room.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 1:32 PM

        Ari – I believe I’ve accounted for most if not all of what baseball-reference is considering “other players, etc..” in my calculation. I think where we differ the bulk of it is baseball-reference is including Igawa in their calculation. I am NOT, as he is not on the opening day roster and unless I’m mistaken he is not even on the 40 man ML roster for the Yankees. I’ve accounted for everything that shows up in Cot’s plus like I said for the new signings and the arbitration cases. I think you will see if you take Igawa out of the b-r calculation and your reference it comes to within roughly $1M of my $192M +/- number. But if it makes the numbers work better for you include Igawa.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 1:41 PM

        Ari – In case you are interested I’ve done the same exercise for the Red Sox for 2011 and based on their new signings (Jenks, etc..) and the few remaining arbitration cases I figure their opening day payroll will be about $177M +/-. About $15 to $20M less than the Yankees are currently expected to come in at without an additional signings.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:06 AM

      ESPN is reporting the deal is for $35M over 3 years. $10M – 1st year, $11M – 2nd year and $14M the 3rd year. He can opt out after either the 1st or 2nd year if he so chooses. I think the way it’s presented it’s a good deal for the Yankees. If he does opt out the Yankees are off the hook for the most expensive portion of the contract.

    • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:47 AM

      To pisano – All of a sudden having Nova and potentially Mitre as the #4 and #5 starters doesn’t scare/concern me as much as it did a few day ago. When I think the Yankees have the option of bringing in Logan/Joba/Feliciano in the 6th inning, Robertson in the 7th inning, Soriano in the 8th inning and Mo to close out the game in the 9th. It brings a smile to my face.
      Now all they Yankees need is for these guys to through the 5th inning in most cases and Nova for the most part has looked pretty good in his time with the Yankees for the first 5 innings. It generally after that, that he gets into some trouble.
      Soriano’s signing does a lot more then shore up the bullpen, it also shores up the starting rotation in a way.

      • pisano - Jan 14, 2011 at 8:12 AM

        To uyf1950….I can’t agree with you more, in essence this signing makes a world of difference for the Yankees. Things are a hell of alot brighter this morning. Like you said it’s become a 5 or 6 inning game now. I saw signs of promise with Nova, we all need to remember he’s still very young and he is only going to get better. One other note, people are down on Mitre, this guy when healthy can be a big help. A solid 3 or 4 would put the Yankees over the top, but if that doesn’t happen I think they can win with what they have in house. I still like the idea of trading Joba I think a change will do him and the Yankees a world of good.

  7. rmfields - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    Another lavish move by the Yanks. Perhaps it was made out of frustration, seeing as how they missed out on so many of their targets so far this off-season. Soriano should be a nice fit in the pen, but the contract itself is so ridiculously bloated.

    • Kevin S. - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:50 PM

      Please, tell me, what were these ‘many’ targets the Yankees missed out on? They missed out on Lee. They did not have a Plan B.

      • phukyouk - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:05 AM

        some sox fans like to believe that the Yanks “missed out on” Crawford… not sure why tho…

      • quintjs - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:40 AM

        Kevin (and phukyouk) Crawford is the one many believe was the Yankees backup plan. And yes you can say it was only reported, and it makes no sense and the Yankees didn’t have any serious interest and it may be true but remember this: all those things were said about the Yankees and Teixeira, and Burnett and Soriano…

      • Kevin S. - Jan 14, 2011 at 8:56 AM

        Except Burnett, Teixeira and Soriano were all moves that filled holes. Crawford was a redundancy of their strongest positions. Not buying it. At all.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 9:12 AM

        To Kevin S – ever notice how Red Sox and non Yankee fans always have to justify their teams signings by bringing the Yankees into the picture and saying how they were interested in those same players. When in most cases there is absolutely no “real” evidence of any Yankee interest.

  8. phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 10:44 PM

    O.M.F.G.! i cannot friggin belive it.. the Rangers lose out on Lee and over pay Beltre.. the Yanks lose out on Lee and OVERPAY soriano.. im happy we got him but if hes not like 100% the pitcher he was we will never hear the end of it. OMFG!

  9. Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    He has an opt-out after each of the first two years. Not only might he be able to turn another dominant year into even more guaranteed money, but most people think the new CBA will scrap the draft compensation system, which would mean a big bump in Type A reliever salaries.

    And to answer an earlier question, no, he does not have a NTC.

    • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:10 PM

      Ari -are you sure? i thought he was able to block trades to any teams?

      • Ari Collins - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:16 PM

        Not sure, plenty of times early reports of deals are wrong. But Olney reports no NTC.

      • phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:55 PM

        ahhh im an idiot… i was confusing him with Soria….

  10. Jonny 5 - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    Well, now all they need to do is teach him how to pitch 6 more innings every 5th day and he’ll be worth it…. Is Joba a starter now?

  11. phukyouk - Jan 13, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    ahhh im an idiot… i was confusing him with Soria….

  12. missthemexpos - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    The Blue Jays might have gotten into a bidding war with the Yanks if J. P. Ricciardi was still around, as I still believe that the 5 year/ $47 million contract to B. J. Ryan has to be one of the worse ever given out to a reliever.

  13. baseballstars - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:53 AM

    As a fan of fantasy baseball, I hate this. I was able to snag Soriano at a reasonable, and sometimes low, position last year. I knew he would dominate after watching him in Atlanta. Hitters haven’t hit over .200 against him since 2006.

    As a fan of the Yankees, however, I love this move. Now we don’t have to rely on David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain melting down, and Mariano can teach Soriano a few tricks in case he becomes our closer of the future.

    It’s a steep price to pay for a reliever with a history of injury problems, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best (and consistent) relief pitchers in baseball.

  14. jfk69 - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:28 AM

    Great deal
    Soriano can opt out any year he chooses. So if this doesn’t work out the Yankees get back a type A draft pick ,who will probably never play for them.
    Gteat insurance policy and way better than dead Wood deal ,who if they signed would have probaly reverted to his old form or ended up injured.
    Now if PETIT comes back mid season and we see some of the killer bees get a taste, we will be fine.
    Tampa is done…That leaves the YANKEES AND BOSTON AS 1 AND WILD CARD.

  15. yankeesfanlen - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    Great catch, excellent planning by Cashman.
    No more having to bring Mo in for 4 or 5 outs. That should further enhance his longevity.
    AJ stinks some night? Get the hook in the fourth or fifth, no problem.
    CC can make it all the way to the bridge, Phil through the sixth, Mr. Fiddley-Fart to that bridge most of the time.
    Who needs starters!

    • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:52 AM


      • phukyouk - Jan 14, 2011 at 9:45 AM

        lets not get to cokcy… (hehe i said cocky)… its only a reliever and we DO need a starter. Mitre is Garbage and Nova is still unproven.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 9:57 AM

        To phukyouk – A starter would be nice, absolutely. But at least now it’s not as critical that it be #2 starter and in reality the Yankees could certainly start the season with with what they have. After all there a usually a few off days in April that should allow the Yankees to get by with just 4 starters. You’re right about Nova but he did show signs during his stay last year with the Yankees that he’s worth the risk, especially if he is only asked to go 5 innings or so to start with. I’m not really counting that much on Mitre. I think if need be one of the prospects later on in the season is probably a better alternative. But that’s just my opinion. And besides AJ (AKA the head case) can’t possibly pitch any worse than last year. He has to get better even if it’s only marginally better. Anyway the Yankee definitely look better today because of this signing. I also like the signing because maybe just maybe it allows the Yankees to think about trading Joba and a catching prospect for the elusive starter.

      • phukyouk - Jan 14, 2011 at 10:06 AM

        “And besides AJ (AKA the head case) can’t possibly pitch any worse than last year.”

        they said the same EXACT thing about Javy….

        and yea i am super happy about the signing and i honestly dont care all that much about the money cause its just that… money and the Sox just went out and spent RAH-TAR-TED money on 2 players and so did the rangers and the Phils. money is what makes the world go round so im kind of sick of hearing it.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 10:13 AM

        To phukyouk – that’s true about Vazquez. But as the saying goes “if you fall off the horse get right back on”. I’m not sure what that saying has to do with anything. But I like it anyway.

      • phukyouk - Jan 14, 2011 at 10:23 AM

        man if they could just figure out a way to wrangle big Z away from the cubs i would be sofa king happy.

  16. uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    Concern the comment about the Yankees and the luxury tax implications. Unless I’m mistaken 2011 is the last year under the current CBA for the luxury. No doubt it will be extended in some form or another, but at this point all can can do is go on what we know. It is set at payrolls exceeding $178M. If my calculations are correct with the Soriano signing and factoring in all the other FA signings to date and potential arbitration awards the Yankees opening day payroll will be about $192M. That’s $14M over the luxury tax threshold. At a 40% tax rate that comes to $5.6M luxury tax as it would stand today. I’m sure there is probably more to it than that, but the fact is with probably only one potential big FA signing left at some point this season the Yankees are on track to have their lowest ever luxury tax bill.

  17. uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    I have a question for all my friends that are Red Sox fans. Let me re-phase that. I have a question for Red Sox fans.
    For the purpose of this question. Let’s forget about the length of the contract and concentrate on this question only. I don’t want to get into all sorts of new ways to calculate a players worth, etc… just based on your gut which would you rather have on your staff for 2011.
    Based on last years performance would you rather have Papelbon on the staff at $11.5M which is probably what he will be awarded in arbitration OR Soriano at the $11M the Yankees will be paying him in 2011?

    • phukyouk - Jan 14, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      Pap = most over rated closer in the history of ever.

    • jfk69 - Jan 14, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      PAPEL WHO???
      You mean the Yankees whipping boy. Every time i see him come in game against the Yankees,it brings tears of joy to my eyes. He is BOSTONS JOBA at 25 times the cost…lol

      • phukyouk - Jan 14, 2011 at 10:14 AM

        Arod hitting that MONSTER HR off him to win that game and then to tie that game and then Thames to win that game… I WAS THERE! 3rd best game of my life.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:26 PM

      So ignoring the contract length but focusig on the per-year amount? Honestly, I’m not going to get into an argument with you uyf, but this his an incredibly player-friendly contract, as most non-Yankee fans will tell you. Again, not going to argue with you, but read some intelligent people’s reactions.

      THAT SAID, ignoring the contract ALTOGETHER, Soriano’s very likely to be a better pitcher than Papelbon next year.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 12:53 PM

        It is what it is. And you are correct I would expect non Yankee fans to think that. In fact I can’t think of a single contract in the last 5 years that the Yankees have signed a player to that non Yankee fans think was a good contract for the Yankees. Yet in spite of their reactions to various signings, the Yankees keep winning. Just so you know, I would expect Red Sox fans to think the Crawford contract is a worthwhile one regardless of it’s length and cost. Most intelligent non Red Sox fans would admit long term contracts very seldom if ever benefit the team. The pendulum swings both ways my friend.

        You’re right though I’m not going to argue with you. My question was a very simple one.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 14, 2011 at 3:25 PM

        Actually, many non-biased statistical analysts think the Crawford signing and Adrian trade were good ones.

        Not to say Theo’s perfect. The Lackey signing didn’t take hindsight to see it was bad; everyone was surprised right away. Might add Lugo and Renteria to that as well, although neither seemed bad at the time of the signings. They were both coming off good years, and honestly there were no good shortstops available anywhere in FA. Anyway, point is: no GM’s perfect, and it sounds like Cashman actually had little to do with this. But it’s still a very bad contract.

        And honestly, people aren’t criticizing the Soriano deal because they hate the Yankees or something. They’re criticizing it because it’s a very very player-friendly contract. Plenty of Yankee signings get a lot of credit: Pettitte’s one-year deals, the Rivera re-signing, Sabathia (except for the opt-out, and there was a vocal minority of stat-friendly people who actually liked the opt-out there), every Mussina deal, pickups of Kerry Wood and Bobby Abreu… I’m probably forgetting a bunch. Plenty of good signings and plenty of bad. You’re getting pretty defensive if you think that the Yankees are somehow being biased against by analysts.

        The reason the Yankees keep winning despite some bad contracts here and there is that they have a payroll consistently 25-50% higher than the next nearest payroll. They can just eat a Pavano signing and a Jaret Wright signing and $35M and a draft pick for a setup man and keep right on truckin’.

      • uyf1950 - Jan 14, 2011 at 4:13 PM

        To Ari – you mention some good examples. Although most of them do not apply to my comment. I did mention contracts in the last 5 years. As for the more current ones you mention I really wasn’t thinking of one year or two year contracts for long time Yankee players like Riverra and Pettitte. But that’s my fault for not being more specific. As for Sabathia I remember nearly without exception people chastising the Yankees for bidding against themselves and paying Sabathia a lot more then the Brewers offered him. Kerry Wood really wasn’t a pick up he was a TD rental, and even at that Cashman has be universally criticized for not resigning him this off season. Mike Mussina goes back to 2001 so again I wasn’t thinking of him in my original comment. I’ll give you Abreu, he was a good deal for the Yankees but he came over at the trade deadline deal in 2006. But I get your your point.
        I agree with your comment about the Yankees being able to eat bad contracts. In fact I mention that every time someone on this board brings up the length of Soriano’s deal. That’s it not a problem for the Yankees to hide the 3rd year of that contract should something happen with Soriano. People tend to expect or want the Yankees and to a lesser degree the Red Sox and Phillies to operate the same as teams like Tampa Bay, Twins, etc.. when it come to payroll, etc… and that’s just not the case and never will be.
        Perhaps you’re right on occasion I do get defensive. I get tired of hear fans complain about the Yankees and the way they do business. They play by the rules the same way the Sox do. People complain about the Yankees payroll yet I hear very few posters complain about teams that pocket their revenue sharing money or teams that have payrolls that would embarrass a little league team. Like I said in an earlier post the pendulum swings both ways. That’s it for my soap box speech.

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