• Pitching and Playoffs: Farm, Free Agency, or Trades?

    How did the most successful teams of 2013 make it to the playoffs? Was it through the Farm System/Draft, Free Agency, or Trades? Any guesses which was the most expensive of the 3 areas? And which was the most successful (regardless of salary)?

    Below are the 2013 rotations which are ordered by post-season rotation order and then secondarily, for the #4 & #5 starters, by their contributions during the regular season.

    Boston Red Sox

    1. Jon Lester – Farm system – $11.625M – 15-8 W-L 3.75 ERA 213.1 IP 177 SO
    2. John Lackey – FA - $16.5M – 10-13 W-L 3.52 ERA 189.1 IP 161 SO
    3. Clay Buchholz – Farm system – $5.5M – 12-1 W-L 1.74 ERA 108.1 IP 96 SO
    4. Felix Doubront – Farm system – $519K – 11-6 W-L 4.32 ERA 162.1 IP 139 SO
    5. Ryan Dempster – FA – $13.25M – 8-9 W-L 4.57 ERA 171.1 IP 157 SO


    Detroit Tigers


    1. Justin Verlander – Farm System - $20M 13-12 W-L 3.46 ERA 218.1 IP 217 SO
    2. Max Scherzer – Trade - $6.7M – 21-3 W-L 2.90 ERA 214.1 IP 240 SO
    3. Anibal Sanchez – Trade - $8.8M – 14-8 W-L 2.57 ERA 182 IP 202 SO
    4. Doug Fister – Trade - $4M – 14-9 W-L 3.67 ERA 208.2 IP 159 SO
    5. Rick Porcello – Farm System - $5.1M 13-8 W-L 4.32 ERA 177 IP 142 SO


    Oakland Athletics


    1. Bartolo Colon – FA - $3M – 18-6 W-L 2.65 ERA 190.1 IP 117
    2. Sonny Gray – Farm system - $490K – 5-3 W-L 2.67 ERA 64 IP 67 SO
    3. Jarrod Parker – Farm System (trade w/ ARZ as Class AA, #26 Overall Prospect) - $495K - 12-8 W-L 3.97 ERA 197 IP 134 SO
    4. AJ Griffin – Farm System - $493K – 14-10 W-L 3.83 ERA 200 IP 171 SO
    5. Dan Straily – Farm System - $493K – 10-8 W-L 3.96 ERA 152.1 IP 124 SO


    Tampa Bay Rays


    1. David Price – Farm System – $10.1m – 10-8 W-L 3.33 ERA 186.2 IP 151 SO
    2. Matt Moore – Farm System – $1M – 17-4 W-L 3.29 ERA 150.1 IP 143 SO
    3. Alex Cobb – Farm System – $502K – 11-3 W-L 2.76 143.1 IP 134 SO
    4. Jeremy Hellickson – Farm System – $503K – 12-10 W-L 5.17 ERA 174 IP 135 SO
    5. Chris Archer – Farm System - $500K – 9-7 W-L 3.22 ERA 128.2 IP 101 SO


    Atlanta Braves


    1. Kris Medlen – Farm System - $505K – 13-9 W-L 3.21 ERA 204.2 IP 181 SO
    2. Mike Minor – Farm System - $2.6M – 15-12 W-L 3.11 ERA 197 IP 157 SO
    3. Julio Teheran – Farm System - $490K – 14-8 W-L 3.20 ERA 185.2 IP 170 SO
    4. Paul Maholm – Trade - $6.5M – 10-11 W-L 4.41 ERA 153 IP 105 SO
    5. Tim Hudson – Trade - $9M – 8-7 W-L 3.97 ERA 131.1 IP 95 SO


    Los Angeles Dodgers


    1. Clayton Kershaw – Farm System - $11M – 16-9 W-L 1.83 ERA 236 IP 232 SO
    2. Zack Greinke – FA - $19M – 15-4 W-L 2.63 ERA 177.2 IP 148 SO
    3. Hyun-jin Ryu FA - $6M – 14-8 W-L 3.00 ERA 192 IP 154 SO
    4. Ricky Nolasco – Trade - $11.5M – 13-11 W-L 3.70 ERA 199.1 IP 165 SO
    5. Chris Capuano – FA - $6M – 4-7 W-L 4.26 ERA 105.2 IP 81 SO


    Pittsburgh Pirates


    1. Francisco Liriano – FA - $1M – 16-8 W-L 3.02 ERA 161 IP 163 SO
    2. AJ Burnett – FA - $16.5M – 10-11 W-L 3.30 ERA 191 IP 209 SO
    3. Gerrit Cole – Farm System - $490K 10-7 W-L 3.22 ERA 117.1 IP 100 SO
    4. Jeff Locke – Farm System (Trade w/ Braves when in Class A) - $498K – 10-7 W-L 3.52 ERA 166.1 IP 125 SO
    5. Charlie Morton – Trade - $2M – 7-4 W-L 3.26 ERA 116 IP 85 SO


    St. Louis Cardinals


    1. Adam Wainwright – Farm System (trade w/ Braves as Class AA, #18 Overall Prospect) - $12M - 19-9 W-L 2.94 ERA 241.2 IP 219 SO
    2. Shelby Miller – Farm System - $490K 15-9 W-L 3.06 ERA 173.1 IP 169 SO
    3. Michael Wacha – Farm System - $490K 4-1 W-L 2.78 ERA 64.2 IP 65 SO
    4. Joe Kelly – Farm System $493K – 10-5 W-L 2.69 ERA 124 IP 79 SO
    5. Lance Lynn – Farm System - $513K – 15-10 W-L 3.97 ERA 201.2 IP 198 SO


    So if you were tallying, you would get this breakdown of the rotations by team:


    All but two had their ace come through their farm system. Bartolo Colon and Francisco Liarino have proved to be one-year wonders. And at $3M and $1M respectively, they were steals, but hardly predictable contributors.

    Apart from those two free agent finds, six free agents combined for a 61-52 W-L record, while having a combined price tag of $77.25M. Add Liriano and Colon back to the mix and it's 95-66.

    Here's a look over the past 4 years of FA starting pitcher to back up the post-season numbers from this year.

    One could run a little optimization application to figure out the optimal price to pay for Free Agent Pitching. (I'll run this later)

    Lesson: Don't overpay for Free Agents. Only in 2011 did the highest paid free agent starting pitcher, Cliff Lee, have the most wins.

    So what's the best method for teams, including the Twins, in 2014 (and beyond) to develop a pitching staff?
    • Farm System
    • Cheap FA flyers
    • Continue to add more power arms via 2014 MLB Draft
    • Trades that yield prospects


    Maybe, just maybe, Terry Ryan doesn't sound like such a stooge anymore.
    This article was originally published in blog: Pitching and Playoffs: Through the Farm System, Free Agency, or Trades? started by twinsfan34
    Comments 49 Comments
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I think you have cause and effect backward.....bad teams use a lot of FA pitching because they have sucked at drafting pitchers, so they use FA to fill in the gaping holes. They aren't bad because they use FA, they use FA because they are bad.......

      I'm not sure I get the conclustion that they should therefore not sign FA.....should they just go with Hendriks, Albers, Worley, Gibson, and Deduno, and not care?
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      I think you have cause and effect backward.....bad teams use a lot of FA pitching because they have sucked at drafting pitchers, so they use FA to fill in the gaping holes. They aren't bad because they use FA, they use FA because they are bad.......

      I'm not sure I get the conclution that they should therefore not sign FA.....should they just go with Hendriks, Albers, Worley, Gibson, and Deduno, and not care?
      I think you're right. If drafting and other areas don't work out the tendency is to jump more fully into Free Agency. I think that's a healthy correlation. The other one - that may or may not be there - is the success or lack of success of teams that try to primarily 'win' with free agency. And for how long.

      The latest collective bargaining agreement affected free agency a lot. Not so much in the contracts offered value wise, but in the compensation. It used to be you could trade for a Matt Garza, in a contract year, and then if you didn't resign him, you got a 1st RD draft pick by the type of Free Agent he is. If it was a team outside of the protected top 15 picks (15 worst teams) you also received their 1st RD pick. So in affect, they would give up the prospects Garza, but then you'd get two 1st round picks for him. Now a player must be offered a 'qualifying offer', last year it was $13.3M, this year it appears to be $14.1M. That is, unless Ervin Santana (Royals) is offered at least $14.1M for 1 season (or more) a team who signs him won't lose their 1st RD pick to the player's former team, the pick is just forfeited altogether. The team losing that player, if they offered at least a qualifying offer, would get a compensatory pick at the end of the 1st round.

      What do you think that will do for free agency? The team losing the FA, now doesn't get as much compensation, that is they don't receive the pick from the signing team - will the team with the pending free agent then try harder to keep that player?

      What it does for the Twins, who are in the top 10 picks, is we won't lose our 1st RD pick if we sign a 'top' (received a qualifying offer) free agent. But we would forfeit a 2nd rounder. So it's still the cost of signing the player as well as losing a high draft pick. So 'signing away' also hurts your farm system.

      So did MLB do this in hopes of teams keeping their players? And did they do that knowing a player typically performs better for his home grown team versus signing for another? (assuming not a cast off)

      The study wasn't so much, not caring. But that signing Free Agent starting pitching often didn't pay off. That is, it didn't result in wins for the team. Another guy did a WAR (wins above replacement) study and very few pitchers offered a WAR even above 2. So you pay $12M for 2 more wins than the next guy?

      The past 4 years there were 42 starting pitchers signed via Free Agency. Only 16 even posted a winning record. The rest were awful. Look at the top salary guys from this past year. $13M this past year would have gotten you Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, or Ryan Dempster. That is 10-14 W-L 4.67 ERA, 8-18 W-L 4.98 ERA, and 8-9 W-L 4.57 ERA.

      We could have been WORSE as a team to sign those 3 guys and could have spent $40M in doing so.

      They're just not affective if you have to start reaching for Free Agent Pitching.

      Now, if you're talking about free agent hitting - that's a whole other matter and that can be and is successful. But winning pitching rotations are built primarily through the draft, secondarily through trades, and lastly, as often a final piece, through free agency - and often - they are not high salary guys.

      I'm all for spending in Free Agency, but pitching is rare to return on it's value. It's why you have to pay $25M for a 34 year old Cliff Lee. Or $13M a piece for those studs (Dempster, Jackson, Haren) this past FA period.

      Paying $13M to get Matt Garza isn't going to make us a winner.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      I enjoyed the article and have also enjoyed the responses.

      I am not optimistic about getting anything better than a #3 starter through FA. On the other hand, a #3 starter would have made 2013 a lot more bearable.
    1. TopGunn#22's Avatar
      TopGunn#22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      This is an interesting study, but I'd argue that the conclusion overreaches somewhat. What it shows is this: the good teams this year have been very good at developing their own playoff-caliber starting pitching. Which is a great thing to keep in mind.

      Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of evidence that the Twins have done that. So then the question becomes - what other options do the Twins have? Or another question might be this: until the Twins have a playoff-caliber rotation, should they settle for one of the worst rotations in MLB, or should be feel obligated to try and overspend (which is what free agency does, no question) to field a somewhat competitive team?

      I don't think Terry Ryan is a stooge (or a scrooge). Ultimately, I believe in his philosophy of building up the minor league assets until a team can breakthrough. What I question is what the team should do until that happens. I don't believe the answer to that is "Pocket cash."

      However, it IS a very interesting study. It really drives home how important it is for an organization to develop it's own starting pitching. Thanks very much for putting this together.
      There is no doubt that developing your own starting pitching is the best model. It's cheaper and provides stability going forward. But when your starting pitching has fallen to the depths the Twins has for the last 3-4 years you must move out of your comfort zone. The Tigers targeted SP's that they were willing to pay for both in both prospects and money via trades. They also went out and acquired bats (Cabrera, Fielder, Hunter, V-Mart, Infante). There really isn't a lot of home grown talent with Detroit. They just had an owner and GM who were willing to pay the price to do it. As Jon Bones points out...pocketing the cash ain't gonna make the Twins any better. And as Reusse correctly pointed out, when you compare the other ownership/GM's in this town, it just appears the Twins don't care. Perception is reality. Another point to consider. Terry Ryan is counting on 2015 as the year the Twins should be able to compete. What if Buxton and Sano are on the team and they play reasonably well but the team still struggles because many holes weren't fixed before they came up? Ryan is risking the fan base by signing the Corriea's, Pelfrey's etc...of the world. I think Twins fans should expect some bold moves this winter or the Twins risk crowds of about 15,000 per game. Someone should publish what the average attendance was in the month of September this year.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Problem with comparing to Detroit is they have the best pitcher in the game in Verlander that came up through the system. Makes it pretty easy to fill holes when you have a guy like that. Same could have been said with Santana back in the day, except the Twins (Terry Ryan) didn't put any effort to put them over the top.

      I think instead of "Farm" the category should be "Draft." The Rays draft pitchers incredibly well, kinda scary good really. David Price, Matt Moore (8th round- out of HS), Alex Cobb (4th round- out of HS), Jeremy Hellickson (4th round- out of HS), David Price (1st round, college). Chris Archer was acquired via trade by the Rays. He should not be listed as "Farm". Still, pretty impressive most of the Rays rotation is made-up of HS draftees that were found in the middle rounds.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      Problem with comparing to Detroit is they have the best pitcher in the game in Verlander that came up through the system. Makes it pretty easy to fill holes when you have a guy like that. Same could have been said with Santana back in the day, except the Twins (Terry Ryan) didn't put any effort to put them over the top.

      I think instead of "Farm" the category should be "Draft." The Rays draft pitchers incredibly well, kinda scary good really. David Price, Matt Moore (8th round- out of HS), Alex Cobb (4th round- out of HS), Jeremy Hellickson (4th round- out of HS), David Price (1st round, college). Chris Archer was acquired via trade by the Rays. He should not be listed as "Farm". Still, pretty impressive most of the Rays rotation is made-up of HS draftees that were found in the middle rounds.
      Yes, you are 100% correct, Chris Archer was acquired via trade. But he was brought to the Rays through the Farm system versus he was traded for and brought immediate value to the ML club. So yes, you are right, but for my classification, I was saying 'farm' as he didn't provide any value to the Rays as a AA player nor to their ability to win that particular season he was acquired much like a Free Agent or a Trade (typically) will. He was acquired in 2011 and spent a little over 2 years in the minors before becoming a starter a little while into the 2013 season.

      I should have been more clear.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Those teams that "fail" at drafting and developing pitchers can, and for much less than the price of a FA pitcher, lure (promotions and pay raises) personnel from those teams that do succeed at drafting/developing pitchers.
    1. Jδrpen Fδviken's Avatar
      Jδrpen Fδviken -
      FA is a funny thing and perhaps needs to be put in context for the Twins. Traditionally the Twins get washout pitchers for a year or two and rarely get good dividends.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Farm System 24
      Trade 9
      Free Agents 7

      These numbers reflect that Chris Archer and AJ Burnett were trades. I could be wrong but I thought the Yankees wanted to get rid of him bad enough to pay $20M of his remaining $33M contract to trade him.

      It gets more interesting when you look a little deeper into the 7 FAs. Of the 7, four of them had a combined salary of $16M annually and were on short term contracts. Ryu & Capuano at $6Meach, Colon at $3M and Liriano at $1M. These guys are often referred to here as dumpster diving.

      Grienke and Lackey were the only two that fit the “high profile” description. The other, Ryan Dempster at 2/26.5 was somewhere in between but he was the worst performer of all 40 of the SPs on play-off teams. So, out of 40 team, two SPs (5%) were high profile FAs.

      Only 4 of the 8 teams had free agents at all. Two of those teams had one FA each with a grand total of $4M guaranteed to them combined. Two teams (LAD and BOS) had five between them. Of course, they are the #2, and #3 teams in revenue.

      So, I would agree with those that the best organizations draft well. I could not disagree more with those who conclude the Twins should be all the more aggressive in FA because they don’t draft well. That is the poorest solution possible. We need to fix the root problem, not pursue the avenue proven to the most ineffective and inefficient. Kwak hit in on the head. What better investment could we possibly make than to improve the staff, strategy, and processes associated with developing SPs?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      why does signing a FA preclude the team from fixing it's minor league issues? How are the two correlated at all?
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Anibal Sanchez should be in the free agent category, not trade. He was a free agent last winter.

      Maholm, while acquired via trade, was signed by Chicago as a free agent.

      Both Wainwright and Hudson, while not technically free agents, each have signed two extensions that prevented free agency, which is sort of the same thing.

      IMO you have misrepresented free agency in your study.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Worley yes through trade. Deduno via minor league free agent.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      why does signing a FA preclude the team from fixing it's minor league issues? How are the two correlated at all?
      It doesn't necessarily preclude them from doing so. It can have a negative affect on your minor leagues.

      Example, after the 2011 season the Angels signed Albert Pujols. The Cardinals got their 1st RD pick (Michael Wacha) as compensation for signing away Pujols. The Cardinals also got another 1st RD as a supplemental selection (Stephen Piscotty). Two years later, Wacha almost throws a no-hitter in the post-season and Piscotty is in AA already with a great BB/SO and contact ratio. The Angels also signed CJ Wilson so they lost their 2nd RD choice in that draft as well.




      The Twins had a tremendous draft in 2012, but, they also lost their 2nd RD pick (#2 overall in that round) for signing Josh Willingham. Willingham had a great year in 2012. What will that pick ultimately end up being or what value will Josh Willingham's 2012 (and whatever he does this year, did nothing in 2013) and any other years weigh against that signing. Who knows...

      So it's not 'free' to sign any free agent. For top free agents, you'll also lose your draft pick in the 1st RD for the upcoming draft.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Anibal Sanchez should be in the free agent category, not trade. He was a free agent last winter.

      Maholm, while acquired via trade, was signed by Chicago as a free agent.

      Both Wainwright and Hudson, while not technically free agents, each have signed two extensions that prevented free agency, which is sort of the same thing.

      IMO you have misrepresented free agency in your study.
      I can see your view point on Anibal Sanchez. As the reason he's with the Tigers in 2013 is because he was a free agent and signed a contract. However, if that's the line of thinking, eventually 100% of players will be free agent acquisitions - because they have to sign a non-rookie contract at some point. There's a few caveats, but any player generally needs at least 6 years of MLB service time to be an unrestricted FA. So any player with 6 years or more on a team is a free agent.


      Maholm is with the Braves - whether or not he signed with Chicago isn't really relevant to how he's playing with the Braves. How would you then deal with the fact he came to the majors by the Draft. That is, he was drafted by the Pirates in 2003, so would you not then have to consider him a Draft Pick? As he was a draft pick before he was a free agent. The other factor, is I'd struggle with how MLB classifies Maholm. At no point could Maholm have decided (free agency) not to be a Brave after being traded from the Cubs.

      Well - Adam Wainwright would have been a Cardinal in 2013 regardless - as his contract extension doesn't come into play until 2014.

      But, lets play out the scenario I think you're referring to. That is, assuming the Cardinals make the playoffs in 2014. I still would find it hard to classify Adam Wainwright as a Free Agent - as at no point in his career could the Twins (or any other ballclub) have signed him. He "avoided" free agency as claims, in the MLB terms, he has to file for free agency and be granted it. He would at no point been able to classify or call himself a free agent by Major League Baseball. Even so, I just can't classify a guy who's never been a free agent, as a free agent.
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      It doesn't necessarily preclude them from doing so. It can have a negative affect on your minor leagues.

      Example, after the 2011 season the Angels signed Albert Pujols. The Cardinals got their 1st RD pick (Michael Wacha) as compensation for signing away Pujols. The Cardinals also got another 1st RD as a supplemental selection (Stephen Piscotty). Two years later, Wacha almost throws a no-hitter in the post-season and Piscotty is in AA already with a great BB/SO and contact ratio. The Angels also signed CJ Wilson so they lost their 2nd RD choice in that draft as well.




      The Twins had a tremendous draft in 2012, but, they also lost their 2nd RD pick (#2 overall in that round) for signing Josh Willingham. Willingham had a great year in 2012. What will that pick ultimately end up being or what value will Josh Willingham's 2012 (and whatever he does this year, did nothing in 2013) and any other years weigh against that signing. Who knows...

      So it's not 'free' to sign any free agent. For top free agents, you'll also lose your draft pick in the 1st RD for the upcoming draft.
      The compensation rules have changed. I doubt the Twins will be signing a 14/mil player anyway.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      The compensation rules have changed. I doubt the Twins will be signing a 14/mil player anyway.
      Yep. Instead of losing your 1st RD draft pick to the other team. You just forfeit it altogether. Exceptions Teams that were protected in the top 15 are now only the top 10 protected. Free Agents are also no longer tiered. Has to do with if they've been offered average salary of top 125 player money (early indications of $14.1M for 2014).

      So the Twins for example, 5th worst team (top 10 protected), would instead lose a 2nd RD pick for say, signing Robbie Cano (sure to be offered compensatory money).

      And yea, you're probably right. They probably won't go after a $14M+a yr player, primarily for the salary implications, but also because this administration would likely not prefer to lose their 2nd RD draft pick in this upcoming draft.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      why does signing a FA preclude the team from fixing it's minor league issues? How are the two correlated at all?
      Draft pick compensation was a bigger part of it prior to the CBA. Why do you think Tampa Bay and Oakland do not sign FA pitchers? For that matter, does it make sense to you why they look to deal their best players when they are approaching free agency? I don't mean this to be a precursor to my answer, I am wondering why you think they manage their roster in this way.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I don't have a problem spending money, but minus Tanaka, Santana (who has an option and won't be leaving KC), and Garza (who I doubt will come here), I don't see anyone worth spending that type of cash on... Perhaps Hughes, but not at the kind of money I see tossed around here.

      Quite honestly, they could turn into another one of our typical Twins pitchers except with a 4 year contract that you cannot unload.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      TB doesn't sign FAs because they have no money to do so......do you really think they would never sign any FAs if they had $50-100MM more in revenue? They also don't sign FA pitchers because they are actually good at drafting and developing pitchers, so they don't need to sign FA pitchers.

      Oakland, actually, did sign an expensive Cuban recently. The also do not sign expensive pitchers because they are are good at developing them, and they have a ballpark that allows them to sign less expensive pitchers and still be successful with them. Also, they have no revenue. Again, if they had another $100MM in revenue, you don't think they'd ever sign a FA?

      I think many of you have cause and effect and root cause really wrong.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      The Twins had a tremendous draft in 2012, but, they also lost their 2nd RD pick (#2 overall in that round) for signing Josh Willingham. Willingham had a great year in 2012. What will that pick ultimately end up being or what value will Josh Willingham's 2012 (and whatever he does this year, did nothing in 2013) and any other years weigh against that signing. Who knows...

      So it's not 'free' to sign any free agent. For top free agents, you'll also lose your draft pick in the 1st RD for the upcoming draft.
      The Twins didn't lose a 2nd round pick. They used it on Mason Melotakis. It was a different system back then, clubs didn't lose picks unless the free agent was designated in the A class. In Willingham's case, the league simply generated a free draft pick out of thin air to help the A's, the Twins lost nothing.

      Also, the Twins will not be losing their 1st pick. Any pick inside the top 10 is protected, they would simply lose their 2nd round pick, which I wouldn't like but would be forgivable if they got a high class free agent however unlikely that would be.
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