Less than a week after Major League Baseball announced that up to 11,500 fans will be permitted to attend 2020 National League Championship Series and World Series games held at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, tickets for the Fall Classic quickly sold out.
A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports reported on Tuesday afternoon that all official World Series tickets sold out in approximately 90 minutes. MLB sold seats in “pods” of four and declared that individual seats within pods cannot be broken up and sold separately.
Additionally, spectators must wear masks inside the ballpark when not actively eating or drinking and respect social distancing guidelines.
Game 1 of the NLCS, scheduled for Oct. 12, will be the first MLB contest to welcome fans since the league temporarily halted play in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The American League Championship Series played at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, will hot have fans in attendance.
The early part of the MLB offseason has already brought with it some blockbuster moves, as well as some under-the-radar signings that could have a big impact in 2020. Here’s a look at the best moves of the early offseason, as of Dec. 20.
1 of 20
Angels hire Joe Maddon
The Angels last made the playoffs in 2014, and their one year with Brad Ausmus at the helm didn’t go well. The organization continues to waste Mike Trout’s talent, but Maddon is as capable as any manager to get L.A. back to the postseason. He started to wear thin with the Cubs recently but should be able to give the Angels a jolt of energy and new-age thinking.
2 of 20
Angels acquire Dylan Bundy
Seemingly over the injury issues that plagued him early in his career, Bundy was a massive disappointment in Baltimore over the last two years and fetched only a group of middling prospects from Anaheim. Much of his issues have been directly related to the long ball, and getting out of Baltimore’s hitter-friendly confines can only help. The Angels desperately needed to beef up their rotation this offseason, and Bundy is a nice start.
3 of 20
Braves sign Will Smith
Smith was a dominant closer for the Giants last season, and he’s been one of the league’s best left-handed relievers since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018. A three-year contract for any reliever is a risk, but Smith is still only 30 and has seen nothing but success in the majors since converting to the pen in 2013. He can serve well in any bullpen role for a Braves team with World Series aspirations.
4 of 20
Brewers sign Josh Lindblom
Lindblom has a history of MLB experience and some success, which is important to remember after three terrific seasons as a starter in Korea. He returns to the majors on a three-year, $9.125 million contract with Milwaukee, which seems like a minimal risk for a pitcher with excellent control and the ability to pitch in multiple roles. For the cost, there’s nothing but upside.
5 of 20
Brewers acquire Omar Narvaez for Adam Hill and draft pick
Milwaukee remedied the loss of Yasmani Grandal by acquiring Narvaez. The catcher is in no way comparable to Grandal, but he did prove to be one of the league’s best offensive catchers in Seattle last year by hitting .278-22-55. Poor defense is a concern, but the price was right for the Brewers. 6 of 20
Brewers acquire Eric Lauer and Luis Urias for Zach Davies and Trent Grisham
Milwaukee is always in search of undervalued assets and stuck with that mindset in this deal. Lauer is a former first-round pick who is unproven at the major league level, but he has a good minor league track record and has been serviceable in two seasons with the Padres. Urias was considered a top prospect just one year ago and gives the Brewers insurance at shortstop with Orlando Arcia continuing to struggle. Davies would seem like a big cost with a career 3.91 ERA in 111 starts, but he doesn’t miss bats and became strictly a five-inning starter late last season. Grisham is a former first-round pick who didn’t hit in the minors until last year, so the jury is still out on him.
7 of 20
Cardinals sign Kwang-Hyun Kim
The Cardinals seem to be going for values more than splashes this offseason, a product of spending big money on the extensions of Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt. Signing Kim to a two-year, $8 million contract brings with it minimal risk with plenty of upside, after the lefty posted a 2.51 ERA in 190.1 innings in Korea last season. He has an MLB-quality slider and could contribute in a variety of roles. 8 of 20
Diamondbacks sign Stephen Vogt
The pending expansion to a 26-man roster will enable many teams to carry three catchers, a strategy that the Diamondbacks have already liked to employ. Vogt gives the team a veteran backup for Carson Kelly, and he was able to reestablish his health last year as Buster Posey’s backup in San Francisco by posting a career-high .804 OPS. Not only could Vogt be used as a backup catcher, but he also is a strong pinch-hitter for only $3 million. 9 of 20
Dodgers sign Blake Treinen
It’s no mystery that the bullpen was L.A.’s biggest weakness last year, and Treinen gives the team a big boost. He fought shoulder issues in Oakland last season but was one of MLB’s best relievers in 2018, with an 0.78 ERA and 38 saves in 68 appearances. An extreme groundball pitcher, he gives the A’s another setup option and potentially a closer alternative if Kenley Jansen struggles again.
10 of 20
Giants sign Kevin Gausman
Gausman clearly isn’t the pitcher he was when he was first promoted by the Orioles, and he is coming off the worst season of his career. The silver lining is that he was terrific as a reliever for the Reds late last year and posted a career-high 10.0 K/9. San Francisco clearly saw that upside when it signed Gausman, and the move to a larger park will help the home run-prone right-hander. There’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract, and this is one of the highest upside one-year deals so far this offseason.
11 of 20
Giants acquire Zack Cozart and Will Wilson
San Francisco took Cozart’s contract off the Angels hands to bring on Wilson, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Giants are effectively paying $12.7 million for Wilson, a middle infielder out of NC State. That’s a hefty price for a prospect, but the Giants have some spare change now that they’re in rebuilding mode. If Wilson turns into an MLB regular, the trade is easily a win for San Francisco.
12 of 20
Marlins claim Jesus Aguilar off waivers
Aguilar was one of the league’s top offensive first basemen in 2018, hitting .274-35-108, but he fell flat last year. After continuing to struggle late in the season with Tampa Bay, Aguilar was waived and claimed by the nearby neighbors in Miami. As the Marlins continue to rebuild, they have at-bats to provide players like Aguilar who are looking to revitalize their careers as the former minor league veteran tries to prove his 2018 season wasn’t a fluke.
13 of 20
Marlins select Sterling Sharp in Rule 5 draft
There aren’t many treasures to be had in the Rule 5 draft these days, but Sharp could be one. The former Nats prospect missed much of last season with a back injury, though he has a career 3.71 ERA in the minors and is coming off a great showing at the Arizona Fall League. An extreme groundball pitcher, Sharp has a chance to not only make the Marlins out of spring training but also to serve in their starting rotation.
14 of 20
Rangers sign Kyle Gibson
Gibson has regained the former talent he showed as a top prospect with the Twins recently, posting a 3.62 ERA in 32 starts during 2018. He struggled late last season after stomach issues but has shown an uptick in velocity lately to go along with an excellent slider. He also had a career-best 2.86 K/BB ratio last year, showing enough upside to be worthy of the three-year, $28 million contract he signed with Texas. The contract is strikingly similar to the one Lance Lynn signed with the Rangers last offseason, and there’s similarly interesting upside.
15 of 20
Rangers acquire Corey Kluber for Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr.
It’s rare that a two-time Cy Young winner can be had for what’s effectively a salary dump, but the Rangers were able to pull it off. In fairness, Clase looks like an outstanding bullpen arm and DeShields can really track the ball in center field, but neither player is a true impact performer in the short term. Kluber missed most of last season with a fractured elbow and struggled before the injury, but he’s entering only his age 34 season and was an elite pitcher as recently as 2018. The Rangers rotation looks terrific with Kluber added to Lance Lynn, Mike Minor and Kyle Gibson. 16 of 20
Rays acquire Hunter Renfroe and Xavier Edwards for Tommy Pham
Tampa Bay got a great 2019 season out of Pham but might have sold high on the soon-to-be 32-year-old by acquiring Renfroe and Edwards. Renfroe struggles defensively, but he hit 33 home runs in only 494 plate appearances last season and is just entering his prime. Edwards is the kicker in the deal, a first-round pick from 2018 who hit .322 between Low-A and High-A last season at age 19. He very well could be the Rays’ second baseman of the future next to top shortstop prospect Wander Franco. 17 of 20
Red Sox sign Jose Peraza
Cincinnati’s shortstop of the future just one year ago, Peraza was non-tendered after an awful 2019 season. Boston signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract, and he will effectively replace Eduardo Nunez on the roster. He brings the upside of a young Nunez, as shown by his 2018 season in which he hit .288 with 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases and appearances at multiple positions. The Red Sox can use some defensive versatility as they figure out the futures of Michael Chavis and Mookie Betts. 18 of 20
Twins re-sign Michael Pineda
Pineda’s market was hurt by the 60-game PEDs suspension that he will continue to serve at the start of 2020, but he looks like a bargain on a two-year, $20 million contract. No team knows him better than Minnesota after employing the big right-hander last year, and the Twins were able to get a lot out of him after a slow start to the season. With great control and a 5.00 K/BB ratio last year, Pineda shows huge potential.
19 of 20
White Sox sign Yasmani Grandal
Chicago didn’t waste much time in the offseason, signing Grandal to a four-year deal in November. He’s been one of the leagues best and most consistent catchers in recent seasons, providing plus-plus ability both offensively and defensively. He should still have some life left as he enters his age 31 season, and he gives the team a nice middle of the order hitter to add to its young talent.
20 of 20
Yankees sign Gerrit Cole
Cole signed a record-breaking nine-year deal with a Yankees organization that has been surprisingly patient and restrained in recent seasons. Clearly an elite starting pitcher, he gives the Yankees the one missing piece that could put them over the top, and he is potentially capable of offsetting the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium dimensions after posting a 13.8 K/9 and 6.79 K/BB ratio last season.
The last we saw of Tim Lincecum was in 2016, when the two-time Cy Young winner signed with the Los Angeles Angels in May following a showcase tryout, made nine starts and was the worst pitcher in the league. He pitched 38 innings, gave up 68 hits, including 11 home runs, posted a 9.16 ERA, and his 2.374 WHIP was the highest for a pitcher with at least 30 innings since 1997.
So with reports circulating that Lincecum will sign a one-year major league contract with the Texas Rangers, the obvious question is why will this season be any different?
Lincecum had another showcase session on Feb. 15 at the Driveline Baseball facility in Kent, Washington, outside of Seattle, where he threw in front of scouts from 15 to 20 teams. Reports from the session indicated Lincecum threw about 25 pitches exclusively from the windup and hit 93 mph while averaging between 90-92. He showed no signs of the hip injury that bothered him at the end of his Giants career and required season-ending surgery in 2015. In December, Rockies pitcher Adam Ottavino posted a photo on Instagram of a ripped Lincecum working out in a sleeveless shirt.
So what do we know? Lincecum is in great shape. He can maybe hit 93 mph throwing at max effort at an indoor baseball facility. He’s well-rested after not pitching in 2017 and is now more than two years removed from the surgery. He obviously knows how to pitch, although precision control was never his forte.
This is obviously a complete roll of the dice by the Rangers, a minimal investment with the hope you hit the lottery. The most likely scenario would see Lincecum pitch out of the bullpen, where he would be a better bet to hold his velocity over short stints. With the Angels, his fastball averaged just 87.7 mph. One writer suggested that with the Rangers’ closer job wide-open, Lincecum even has a chance to win that role.
First, the obvious: Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has legitimate designs on 60 or more home runs this season, and his second-half surge has lifted Miami into wild-card contention. As such, the Marlins — even though Stanton has already passed through waivers — aren’t going to trade him during the season. However, once the new ownership group publicly fronted by Derek Jeter takes the reins, an offseason trade of Stanton and his mega-contract is a distinct possibility.
As for who would be interested in adding Stanton to the fold, it requires a mix of need, payroll flexibility and risk tolerance (Stanton had an opt-out of his backloaded $325 million deal after the 2020 season, which means his club assumes all of the risk). On that front, Bob Nightengale of USA Today has some tantalizing specifics. He writes:
The San Francisco Giants recently called, and privately informed the Miami Marlins of their interest.
So have the St. Louis Cardinals. The Texas Rangers. The Philadelphia Phillies didn’t want to be left out, either.
They all have one thing in mind.
They want Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, and while it’s not realistic now, it could be by the start of the 2018 season.
Nightengale’s piece has much more on the Stanton situation, so give it a read.
As for the four teams he names — the Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, and Phillies — they all make sense. That’s especially the case with the Phillies, who are working to emerge from a deep rebuild and have negligible long-term salary obligations. The Giants, though, are certainly pining for a reboot after their disappointing 2017 season and would love to resume contending around that core of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and company. The Cardinals have plenty of outfield depth, but they badly need a true middle-of-the-order hitter to keep up with the Cubs and Brewers, who both figure to contend for years to come.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, owners of the best record in baseball, have acquired right-hander Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers, the teams announced Monday.
Los Angeles landed perhaps the biggest name available right at the trade deadline. The Rangers will receive three minor leaguers: second baseman Willie Calhoun, right-hander A.J. Alexy and shortstop Brendon Davis. They are the fourth-, 17th- and 27th-ranked prospects in the Dodgers’ system, respectively, according to MLB.com.
Los Angeles did not want to part with top prospects such as right-hander Walker Buehler and outfielder Alex Verdugo.
“It’s an honor to be wanted by the team,” Darvish, who is from Japan, said through an interpreter.
The trade came after the Dodgers acquired left-handed relievers Tony Watson from the Pirates and Tony Cingrani from the Reds.
Darvish is 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA this season, his worst in five years in the majors. A four-time All-Star, Darvish has seen his win total decrease in each season in the league — from 16 in 2012 to seven last season. Tommy John surgery cost him the entire 2015 season.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister said he wished Darvish luck and challenged him to do something memorable.
“There were times where he was just dominating as we’ve seen previously with the fastball, the swing-and-miss slider, the sinker, the split, slow curve,” Banister said. “He’s going to wipe out hitters on days when his stuff is there. You’re going to sit back and watch, and just marvel at what he does.”
Darvish, 30, is 0-5 with a 5.81 ERA over his past eight starts. He was tagged for a career-worst 10 runs in his last outing and later revealed that he was tipping his pitches to the Marlins.
There were three things Adrian Beltre wanted to happen when he finally collected his 3,000th hit. First, he wanted to make sure his family was there to witness it. They were at Globe Life Park on Sunday, so, check. He wanted to do it at home. Check. And he wanted to, in his words, “get a clean hit.” Check.
The last part took a few tries in Sunday’s 10-6 loss to the Orioles. He’d made an out in his last three attempts at reaching 3,000, but every time, the routine was the same. Beltre’s name would be announced over the PA system, and the crowd would whip into an ear-splitting roar. And then, just as soon as they erupted, silence enveloped the stadium. When the pitcher prepared to deliver the ball, you could hear a pin drop. Nobody wanted to miss it, cameras and phones primed to capture it for eternity.
On his fourth try, Beltre connected. After striking out in his first at-bat against Baltimore starter Wade Miley, Beltre ripped a double down the third-base line on a 3-0 count in the fourth inning to ensure his place in baseball lore. He became the 31st player in Major League history to reach the milestone and the first Dominican-born player to do so.
“Today, when I got my second at-bat, I thought, ‘This has to be it. I don’t want to have the fans waiting, my family is waiting for it. I don’t want to drag it one more day,'” Beltre said. “When I got the 3-0, I was doubting myself. ‘Should I swing, or should I just take?’ The way Miley was pitching, I thought, ‘This is going to be the best pitch he will throw me.’ And I decided, if it’s going to be on the plate, I’m going to swing. And I did.”
He strode into second, paused, collected himself, and then the celebration began. The Orioles near him offered their congratulations, and a steady stream of Beltre’s teammates emerged from the dugout as fireworks boomed over the Arlington sky. Beltre turned, saw his children running toward him and prepared for a hug, except they sprinted right by him and into the outfield.
The Texas Rangers are ready to move ace pitcher Yu Darvish. All it will take is someone to meet their asking price.
Sources told ESPN.com that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels began calling potential suitors Monday and telling them the team is open to trading Darvish for the “right deal.” If no team offers a return package to the Rangers’ liking, Daniels has informed clubs that Texas will hold on to Darvish and continue to make a push in the American League wild-card race.
The latest development appears to be the Rangers’ most declarative statement yet on Darvish, who instantly becomes the prize catch of the trade deadline. After 4 p.m. Monday, players must clear waivers, and trades become considerably more challenging to complete.
Darvish, 30, is a four-time All-Star over five seasons with the Rangers. He’s 6-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts this year and ranks fifth in the American League in strikeouts (143), seventh in WHIP (1.12) and ninth in wins above replacement (2.5).
Darvish is scheduled to oppose Jose Urena of the Miami Marlins on Wednesday in his final start before the deadline.
The Rangers’ postseason prospects improved slightly with a weekend sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, leading to speculation that Daniels was learning toward keeping Darvish at the deadline. But after a 4-0 loss to the Marlins on Monday, the Rangers are 48-51 and tied with the Baltimore Orioles for seventh in the wild-card race, 3½ games behind the Kansas City Royals. FanGraphs gives them a 16.5 percent chance to make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
The Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Cubs and several other contenders have dispatched scouts to watch Darvish in his recent outings. It’s unclear at this point whether Clayton Kershaw’s expected absence for four to six weeks with a back injury has made the Dodgers more motivated to acquire a front-line starter.
Cole Hamels made his first start on Monday night after spending two months on the DL with an oblique injury, and the results were not pretty. He gave up individual runs in the first, third and fourth innings, before being blown up by Cleveland’s offense in the fifth. By time the book closed on him, he had surrendered seven runs on eight hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. Despite the Rangers pounding Carlos Carrasco for eight runs in 3 1/3 frames, they lost 15–9. It was hardly a triumphant return for Hamels.
The season-long numbers on Hamels paint an equally ugly picture. The oblique injury has limited him to six starts and 37 innings, but we can’t simply wave away his performance based on small sample size. He owns a 4.38 ERA, 5.31 FIP and 1.32 WHIP. Most troubling, however, is his sudden inability to miss bats. Hamels has fanned 16 batters this season, the same number that he has walked. His 6.7% swinging-strike rate is befitting of a pitcher like Bartolo Colon or Doug Fister, not one who has struck out more than 23% of the batters he has faced across a 12-year career.
Hamels’s velocity is down significantly for each of his pitches this season. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise for a pitcher in his age-33 season approaching 2,400 career innings, including the postseason, and is clearly part of the explanation for his disappearing strikeouts. At the same time, Hamels was never a pitcher who subsisted entirely on velocity. His four-seamer never sat at an average higher than 93.6 mph for a full season, and it was more in the 91–92 mph range when he was in his heyday with the Phillies. Velocity is definitely an issue, but it cannot be the only issue.
Don’t be fooled by the standings — despite the congestion and the number of teams that are just a handful of games above/below .500, several contenders are in position to separate themselves from the pack. All it might take is one simple move.
The nonwaiver trade deadline is still more than 2 1/2 months away, and the second wild card in each league gives struggling teams plenty of incentive not to wave the white flag, but it’s always trade season.
Seven moves (and one wishful-thinking deal) that need to happen sooner than later:
Rays SP Chris Archer to Cubs
Chicago’s rotation ranks 23rd in the majors with a 4.62 ERA — a season after it led the majors at 2.96. Jake Arrieta and John Lackey — both free agents after this season — can’t seem to snap out of their funks, and Brett Anderson (8.18 ERA) is back on the DL. Even if two of those three bounce back, it still spells trouble for a team built to repeat.
Archer is under team control through 2021 and would fill a void (see: Lackey’s and Arrieta’s free-agent status) going forward. And there’s an obvious familiarity factor with Joe Maddon. The Cubs certainly have the prospects to finally pry Archer away from the Rays, who can avoid trading their ace to an AL East team.
Rangers SP Yu Darvish to Yankees
New York’s rotation is overachieving — with the exception of CC Sabathia — but it can’t bank on that being the case all season. The offense could use more production from first base, but adding another arm remains the bigger priority — especially since it’s far too soon to give up on Greg Bird. Meanwhile, Texas remains in the AL West cellar and must maximize its return on Darvish, who will be a free agent this offseason.
With money to spend this offseason (CC Sabathia’s $25 million and Alex Rodriguez’s $21 million salaries are coming off the books), the Yankees could consider this is an extended trial run for Darvish.
White Sox SP Jose Quintana to Astros
This move has been rumored since the offseason, and it makes more sense than ever. Houston has established itself as the clear front-runner in the AL West but needs a strong complement to Dallas Keuchel in the rotation. Quintana qualifies as a terrific 1A.
Although Chicago’s strong start in encouraging, this squad is at least a year away and should capitalize on the chance to collect even more valuable prospects.
Royals CF Lorenzo Cain to Nationals
Washington’s offense isn’t exactly suffering without the injured Adam Eaton … yet. Cain is remarkably similar to Eaton in his on-base (.393 OBP) and base-running abilities (nine stolen bases), and is even better defensively.
Because Cain is in his walk year, Washington won’t have to commit long-term (or sacrifice as much young talent to acquire him). And the momentthat deal is done, it’s time to call the White Sox about David Robertson.
Given their inability to advance past the NLDS and the uncertainty about Bryce Harper’s future, the Nationals must go for it now.
The Toronto Blue Jays are headed back to the American League Championship Series, knocking out the Texas Rangers for the second straight season on a mad dash, and a dash of sweet, sweet comeuppance.
Here’s how it all went down…
Edwin Encarnacion came up huge. Again.
Four days after Encarnacion exposed Buck Showalter’s historically bad managerial decision with a titanic walk-off blast, The Parrot Walker was at it again. In his first at-bat Sunday night, Encarnacion crushed a hanging slider from Colby Lewis into the second deck in left-center, giving the Jays an early 2-0 lead.
In his second time up, he smoked a single up the middle, cashing Josh Donaldson to put Toronto ahead 5-2 in the third. Encarnacion’s Sunday night slugfest continued an assault on the league that’s intensified as the stakes have grown. The 33-year-old slugger batted .263/.357/.529, tying a career high with 42 homers and leading the league with 127 runs batted in (if you’re into that kind of thing). Edwing’s first-inning shot marked the first time in the Blue Jays’ 40-year history that a player had hit three home runs in the team’s first four playoff games.
That Encarnacion would blossom into one of the most devastating power hitters in the league is a borderline miracle. Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt’s 2014 feature details the long and winding road Encarnacion took to get here. In 2009, the Jays traded Scott Rolen to Cincinnati, taking Encarnacion back only at the Reds’ insistence, and only as a straight salary dump. As Alex Anthopoulos, Toronto’s assistant general manager at the time of the trade, told Brunt: “Candidly, we did not want him to be part of the deal.”
From there, the Jays would send Encarnacion to the minors during the 2010 season, place him on waivers at season’s end, watch him get claimed by the A’s, re-sign him a month later when Oakland let him go, and watch him make so many errors at third base that he earned the mocking nickname “E5.” It took offseason instruction from Robinson Cano’s hitting consultant Luis Mercedes, and a call for Encarnacion to eliminate the leg-kick in his swing and to keep two hands on the bat, for the power outburst now five years running to get started.
Since then, we’ve gained a hitter who, according to MLB.com research,crushes baseballs with the barrel of the bat more than almost anyone else in baseball. One who, according to the analysis site TruMedia, saw his OPS against right-handed pitchers jumped 160 points from his 2009-2011 levels to what he’s accomplished in the past five seasons. And one who, according to TruMedia, has drastically improved his ability to lay off bad pitches over the past five seasons
EDWIN ENCARNACION CHASE RATES:
2009-2011 Chase% vs RHP=27.3% (vs LHP=21.7%) 2012-2016 Chase% vs RHP=22.7% (vs LHP=20.0%)
The decisive game of this series would get decided on other, much weirder events. But with Josh Donaldson’s late-season hip injury curtailing his power, even the defending AL MVP can’t claim to be the Jays’ scariest threat. That honor belongs to Encarnacion, fixer of swings, transporter of birds, beater of worlds.
The Jays’ bullpen continued to defy the odds.
With a power-packed lineup, an excellent team defense, and arguably the deepest starting rotation in franchise history, the Jays came into this year’s playoffs as one of the dangerous wild-card teams the game had seen in the two decades since the playoffs expanded.
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