Cubs Looking for a Southpaw and Other News, Notes and Rumors

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been upfront about their desire to add pitching to the roster this winter. The Cubs are thought to be looking at starters Scott Baker, Josh Johnson and Phil Hughes while trying to improve the bullpen in the process.

The Cubs are reportedly in the market to add a lefty reliever to the mix. James Russell has been overworked the past two seasons and Zac Rosscup has a bright future, but very little experience. The Cubs could take a long look at Brooks Raley in the spring to fill the lefty specialist role as well.

James Russell is arbitration eligible for the second time and figures to receive a nice bump in pay from the $1.075 million he earned last season. Russell has appeared in 151 games over the last two years, very close to half of the Cubs total games during that span. Russell was 1-6 in 74 games with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP, but in the second half 1-4 in 19 games with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Russell’s strikeouts per nine innings dropped after the break from 7.9 to 4.4 and he issued almost as many walks (11) as strikeouts (12). Russell figures to make slightly under $2 million in 2014.

Russell has been misused by three different Cubs’ managers. Russell struggles getting right handed hitters out and should only be used as a LOOGY. Right handers hit .321/.418/.615 against Russell last year while lefties managed a .183/.221/.322 slash line. For his career, Russell has limited lefties to a .232/.264/.400 line and right handers have hit .293/.356/.511.

Zac Rosscup showed the ability to retire right handers (.211/.308/.328) and lefties (.150/.274/.225) at the Triple-A level last season. But he struggled throwing strikes when he was called up in September. Rosscup was charged with one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings but issued eight walks, one intentional, with seven strikeouts (1.35 ERA, 1.50 WHIP). It was September and is a small sample size, but he might need a little more time in Iowa’s pen before he’s ready for a full time job in the majors.

One of the lefty relievers the Cubs could sign this winter is J.P. Howell. The Cubs were very interested in signing Howell a year ago before the Dodgers inked him to a one-year, $2.85 million contract. Howell was 4-1 in 67 appearances for the Dodgers with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP.

Javier Lopez, Scott Downs, Eric O’Flaherty, Manny Parra, Boone Logan, Oliver Perez, Matt Thornton, Mike Gonzalez, Rich Hill, Travis Blackley, Zach Duke, Pedro Feliciano and David Purcey are also free agents. O’Flaherty is recovering from Tommy John surgery and should not be an option. And Javier Lopez figures to be in line for a big pay day from a contending team.

Adding an experienced left-handed reliever, on the right deal, would help reduce James Russell’s workload and would allow Rick Renteria to use Russell correctly.

Free Agents

The Cubs’ front office appears to be looking at second and third tier free agents to improve the big league roster for next season. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are on record saying they have no intention of swaying from the plan they put in motion more than two years ago.

The Cubs could add pieces to the team, but look for them to be more of the short-term variety signings than long term contracts. Hoyer did not rule out signing a free agent to multiple years but did preface it by saying any signing would have to make sense for the Cubs’ future.

Buster Olney reported that teams are steering away from long-term deals and seem to be more willing to do shorter, higher average annual value deals.

The Cubs are thought to be interested in free agent pitchers Josh Johnson, Scott Baker and Phil Hughes, catchers John Buck and Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Nate McLouth.

Josh Johnson

According to Jeff Passan, the signing of Tim Hudson by the Giants on Monday to a two-year, $23 million contract might “thaw” out the free agent pitching market and Josh Johnson might be the next starter to sign.

The Cubs are believed to be interested in signing Johnson, and most think he will ink a one-year contract to rebuild his value. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Monday that Johnson let the Giants and Padres know early on in the free agent process that they (Giants, Padres) were his first choice. Schulman reported Johnson’s interest in the two teams could be because they are not far from his home in Las Vegas … but those big home ballparks in San Diego and San Francisco would not hurt him either.

Josh Johnson has not fared very well in NL Central parks throughout his career. Johnson is 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in three games, two starts, at Wrigley; 1-1 in three games, two starts, with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP at Great American Ball Park; 0-0 in three starts at Miller Park with a 6.60 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP; 1-0 in one start at PNC Park with a 2.25 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP; 1-2 in three starts at Busch Stadium with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.

Masahiro Tanaka

Andrew Marchand reported that an agreement between MLB, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball should be reached by the end of the year. And Masahiro Tanaka would still be posted before the season begins.

As Jon Paul Morosi pointed out on Monday, Yu Darvish was not posted until Dec. 8 and the Rangers still had plenty of time to get him ready for the 2012 season.

The Yankees are viewed as the frontrunner to land Tanaka when he is posted.

Jacoby Ellsbury

The Cubs continue to be linked to Jacoby Ellsbury by the mainstream media, and for obvious reasons. The front office is very familiar with Ellsbury, plus he would fit a need at the big league level. Even with prospects such as Albert Almora and Jorge Soler on the horizon, a majority of the hitting prospects in the Cubs’ system are right handed. Brett Jackson is the only lefty outfielder near major league ready that will not be in his late-20s or 30 years old on Opening Day.

Jim Bowden posted a report of one deal he thinks every National League team should make this winter … and for the Cubs it would be to sign Jacoby Ellsbury to a six-year, $120 million contract. Bowden feels that Ellsbury would still be in his prime when Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler all reach the majors by the end of the 2015. And signing Ellsbury “would be an important step forward for the Cubs.”

Jon Heyman reported that the Rangers have apparently ruled out Ellsbury and “are considering a run at top-tier free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.” The Rangers are happy with Leonys Martin in center and are looking at Choo as a replacement for Nelson Cruz.

Scott Boras is looking for a Jayson Werthtype deal (seven years, $126 million) for Shin-Soo Choo and a Carl Crawford-contract (seven years, $142 million) for Jocoby Ellsbury.

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant has impressed Theo Epstein in a short amount of time. Bryant’s performance led Epstein to compare him to Evan Longoria according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.

The Cubs “aggressively pushed” Bryant and he has responded so far.

Theo Epstein admitted the front office realizes Bryant still “has a long way to go.” Epstein explained, “There are developmental issues for him and parts of his player plan that need to be worked on, just as there are for everybody else in the system.”

Epstein looks “forward to him getting better over the course of the next minor league season.” The Cubs do not plan on rushing Kris Bryant to the big leagues.

A player’s performance dictates his promotions. Epstein explained, “That’s part of the criteria for advancement. One thing we tell our players: ‘If you want to move up, dominate you competition. Perform. Ultimately, it comes down to performance. You need to work on your player plan. You need to work on your weaknesses. You need to be a good teammate. But the single most important factor is performance. Dominate.”

News and Notes

Bronson Arroyo may or may not be on the Cubs’ radar this winter, but the former Reds’ starter is looking for a three-year contract. Arroyo feels he has enough left in his tank to pitch three more seasons and told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern during an interview on MLB Network Radio that he has been contacted by the Phillies, Dodgers, Angels, Twins and Orioles … but he has yet to receive an offer.

The Yankees could use the same loophole the Cubs found in the international free agent market to add talent to a depleted farm system. The Yankees have already surpassed their bonus pool allotment and are expected to exceed their allotment by 15 percent. The Cubs used the loophole in the system to add the top two players in this year’s class and will not be able to sign a player for more than $250,000 next year.

The cost of catching went up on Monday when the Phillies signed Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million contract that includes a fourth-year option worth $4.5 million and includes a $500,000 buyout. Ruiz’s deal also includes a limited no-trade clause and an incentives package worth an additional $500,000 per year for catching 125 or more games. Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski will benefit the most from Ruiz’s deal … and Dioner Navarro might end up getting the $5-6 million per season he is looking for this winter.

With the Cubs reportedly looking to add a lefty to the pen, the word southpaw will be used countless times this winter. The origin of the word southpaw, in baseball terms, is thought to be from the orientation of early baseball fields to the same points of the compass, such that the pitcher’s left arm was on the “south” side of his body.

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"Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time." – Lou Brock

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  • Ripsnorter1

    “James Russell has been overworked the past two seasons.”

    That’s what management wants us to believe. He worked 52 innings last year, which was good for #29 in IP
    among all LH relievers in all of MLB. Hey, that’s not overworked! Yup, he entered 74
    games, good for #5 among LH relievers in all of MLB. I know, I know, warming up takes up something out
    of your arm, too. I agree. But the reality is this: he cannot get RHB out anyway.

    LHB=.183 BA, .221 OBP, .322 slug=outstanding.
    RHB= .321 BA, .418 OBP, .615 slug, 1.033 OPS = he is turning every RHB into an Hall of Famer.

    Conclusion: we need a LHP who can get RHB out. Russell is simply a left handed one out guy.

    • Sonate

      Agreed. Get “a LHP that can also get RHB out.” Roster spots are too precious to waste on a LOOGY. (An imaginative alternative might be to get a RHP that can get LHB out!)

      • Ripsnorter1

        Now that is an idea!


  • Ripsnorter1

    Nate McLouth–we don’t want him, if the plan is to win some games.

    He stole 30 bases last year. That’s his career high. In 593 PA, he managed
    36 RBI off of 12 HR. Translation: He doesn’t drive in runs. And of those 36
    RBI, 19 were driven in during Aug/Sept, as the pitching weakened with the
    long season, and especially, the dilution of the rosters in September with minor
    league talent.

    .258 BA, .329 OBP, .399 slug….He’s David DeJesus.
    This FO just wants to sign David DeJesus over and over and over again.
    RISP = .229 BA, .310 slug.
    With 2 outs, RISP, grab your glove and get ready to field, because he hit .125.

    Defense. What about his defense? He was worth an extra 10 runs to the
    opposing teams because he can’t field his position. And what is his
    position: LEFT FIELD, the easiest OF position to play.

    Can’t win many games with no power, no batting average, no clutch hitting,
    and a weak glove.

    And if Team Theo signs this guy, then you have to wonder if the plan
    of the #7 top GM in all of MLB (please!) really is
    to win some games.

    • Tony_Hall

      They should just sign someone who has a line of 320/400/550 that steals 50 bases a year, drives in 120 runs, scores 110 and never makes errors in the field.

      I am sure there are plenty of guys out there like that.

    • Tony_Hall

      C’mon now Rip, saying LF is the easiest OF position to play will bring out the talk again that CF is easier.

    • coachdon

      Isn’t McLouth just a different version of Bogusevic? I think Brian B might even be the better player.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Phils signed Carlos Ruiz.

    ESPN’s Keith Law feels that (Insider subscription required and recommended) “giving a 35-year-old catcher with platoon problems who’s coming off a PED suspension a three-year deal is absolute lunacy.” The Phillies continue to create a bigger mess for themselves going forward, writes Law.”

    A.J. Pierzynski caught 119 games last year, 111 as a starter.
    At age 36, that’s working hard.

    As a platoon catcher, he ought to be a plus to the Cubs’ roster.
    He gunned down 33% of would be base stealers. (league average = 26%).

    Offensively, there is one concern: OBP dropped to .297, while his
    career average is .328. BA was .279 with decent .425 slugging.

    I still say, resign the FA Navarro. He’s younger. Switch hitter. Has some power.
    And he speaks Spanish. That ought to top it off, right there.

    • Sonate

      Ruiz. $26 mill for three years, or about $8.5 mill per year. Turns 35 in January. A similar mistake to signing Byrd for $8 mill per year for 2 years. Ruiz likely projects an OPS circa 750.

      • Ripsnorter1

        If Ruiz OPS is .750, then he’ll be fine.

        But I don’t believe it will be even .680.

    • mutantbeast

      AJP doesnt like the Cubs orginization for some reason. Apparently, him and Mark Buerhle didnt care much for Wrigley, either. Just saying.

      • Ripsnorter1

        That’s all the more reason to sign him ASAP.

  • Ripsnorter1

    The Cubs will not sign Josh Johnson. He wants to inflate his stats by going to
    a pitcher’s park like San Diego or SF. Let him go. He’d just get racked around

  • Ripsnorter1

    Manny Parra…LH reliever.

    Another LOOGY: he pitched in 57 games (hey, that’s more than James Russell), tossed
    a mere 46 IP for Dusty Baker; and RHB hit .310 off of him. He’s slightly better than
    Mr. Russell in that area, in that he held RHB to .524 slugging and .893 OPS–
    creating mere All-Stars of every RHB, in comparion to Russell elevating them
    to Hall of Fame status.

    Don’t sign this guy.

  • Guest1

    Just curious on this Ellsbury thing… If we have Lake, Almora, Soler and possibly Baez moving into the outfield which prospect is the odd man out if we end up actually signing Ellsbury to a long term deal?

    • J Daniel

      Not all prospects are going to make it. Plus, you need someone that has been through it before to lead the way. If it were a 6 year 120 mil deal I would do it. If all the prospects make it someone could be dealt to fill another need.

      • 07GreyDigger

        I would not do it. Guy is made of glass. Hasn’t been healthy for a full season since 2011 and you’d pay $20 million for a leadoff hitter? Yikes.

        • J Daniel

          I hear you and tough to argue your point. Maybe this is not the right signing but at some point they have to pay for some guys that have been there and done that to lead. No problem if it is not Jacolby as your points are valid. But need a little more than a bunch of third tier FA signings.

          • 07GreyDigger

            Which I agree with and understand, but I applaud Theo and Jed for not giving into fan paranoia. I don’t think this season is the time to do something like that. If Bryant and Baez come up in June and do decent, this team is already better than last season. I could see in 2015, signing a big name guy to fill out the roster.

            The team has been awful the past two seasons after July because they haven’t been able to bring up solid prospects to fill holes. They’ve filled them with nothing. Now they can bring up solid guys. This season should be exciting.

          • cubtex

            you applaud Theo and Jed for not giving into fan paranoia and improving the ball club? Everybody on your feet! Let’s give them a standing ovation!

          • 07GreyDigger

            That’s not what I said. I hate when you twist words for your benefit.

            I said I applaud them for doing it their way and not at the whims of paranoid fans who think they’ll die before they win a WS…

          • cubtex

            so you applaud me for twisting words and phrases for my benefit? lol

          • Ripsnorter1

            Most Cubs’ fans of yesteryear HAVE died before the Cubs reached
            the WS. And, by the way, reaching the WS is not a realistic goal for
            2014 or 2015.

          • cubtex

            right. they are on a snails pace. is 2016 even realistic? 2016 might be a year they will be competitive and possibly compete for a wild card spot but reaching a WS is probably not realistic either.

          • Ripsnorter1

            If Bryant can actually hit ML pitching with power, that’s going to help some.

            BUT WAIT!

            Soriano actually hit ML pitching with power, and that didn’t help us get out
            of last place because he was all by himself in the power department.

            Soler has shown nothing in A ball thus far, except a temper, except an attitude,
            except that he is no sure thing. This year will tell us much more. Until then, I have
            to withhold any hope that he’s any kind of an answer, even though he has a great
            power build.

            Almora has shown that he can hit line drives, and that he is somewhat fragile.
            I love his glove and he knows how to hit triples, too.

            Baez has shown bat speed, power, and an unacceptable strikeout rate, plus a lose glove.

          • cubtex

            Theo has built up the farm system there is no question about that. how many will be above average major leaguers in 2 to 3 years? that is the million dollar question.

          • John_CC

            You just never know do ya? That’s the thing with prospects, but it is still better to have than not.

            The other question, just as important, is how many of them will be turned into above average ML player in the next 2 years? Because we know that trading prospects is often better than waiting on them. And Theo will trade anyone.

          • John_CC

            Actually, Soriano first came to the Cubs, way back in his prime in 2007. hThat year he did help take a last place team in ’06 to contending in ’07 and ’08.

            But if you are talking about 2013, 5 years past his prime. No he couldn’t help a last place team. You are correct.

          • cubtex

            he carried the Yankees on his back in 2013 and helped them make up a lot of ground(almost getting them to the playoffs)

          • John_CC

            Aside from seeing the slightest opening to bring this up again… your point is… ?

          • Ripsnorter1

            2012…32 HR…105 RBI…lost 101 games.
            See my point?

          • 07GreyDigger

            I know you will disagree, but I can’t imagine this season being worse than the last two. Let’s say they do what they have been doing. With Baez, Alcantara and Bryant close to the majors, not to mention pitching prospects like Hendricks in the minors, if they sell off their veterans, they have much better talent to bring up.

          • cubtex

            wasn’t that supposed to be the case last season? the veterans were sold off and they had more depth with starting pitching, we weren’t going to have the Justin Germano’s etc. What was their record after Soriano and Garza were dealt? To assume that Baez, Olt, Alcantara and Bryant will come up and do well right away is premature. The step from AA to the majors is HUGE.

          • SirGladiator

            Another team that wasn’t at all ‘realistic’ to win the WS was those huge losers, the Red Sox. Why should they have even tried this year, after having a record almost as bad as the Cubs last year? So foolish they were, going out and actually getting good players and trying to win. Everybody knows the way to win the World Series is to NOT go out and get good players, get mediocre players at best, preferably those who just had Tommy John surgery, and wait until you can field an entire team of AAA players. Then and only then can you win the World Series. Boy those folks in Boston sure were dumb. I wonder how they did this year? I forget….but clearly if they’d done things the right way, saved that money instead of wasting it on good players, they’d definitely be in position to contend for a playoff spot 5 or 10 years from now :) .

          • Ripsnorter1

            Who are we applauding? Team Theo, or GreyDigger and the crowds of
            Cubs’ fans who are applauding Team Theo?

          • 07GreyDigger

            I’m applauding management for not succumbing to fan pressure. That’s how you get into trouble. Do it your way as long as it gets us a championship. So far so good in my estimation.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Buddy Ryan always said, “If you listen to the fans in the stands,
            it won’t be too long before you are sitting with the fans in the stands.”

          • cubtex

            his son in NY will be doing that after this season.

        • cubtex

          I agree with you on Ellsbury. He is fragile and to sign this guy for anymore than 3 years is contract suicide.

          • mutantbeast

            Agreed. I wouldnt go more than 3/45 tops on Ellsbury.

          • John_CC

            Boras will hold out until opening day before dropping to 3 years then still won’t do it.

    • Theboardrider

      Probably at least one trade somewhere. But I’d say Lake is the odd man out…

    • John_CC

      The prospects that don’t make it.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Ellsbury is not coming here.

    • J Daniel

      Agree 100% because the only way he does is an over pay … which is not going to happen.

  • cubtex

    What is Scott Eyre doing?

    • 07GreyDigger

      Touring the country in his RV.

  • cubtex

    It is not easy to find a Sean Marshall type. They are few and far between. This guy was lights out for the Cubs in 2011. They needed a starting pitcher more than a lefty reliever so this deal for Travis Wood was needed for the Cubs but take a look at his splits in 11.

    75.2 IP(and James Russell was overworked with 52.2 IP?) 66 hits and 79 K’s

    RHB hit .249 off Marshall and in 203 PA against RHB he gave up only 1 HR. That is an incredible stat.

    LHB hit .206 with 0HR in 104 PA

    and in clutch situations…….Batters only hit .215 against him with RISP with 0 HR.

    The Cubs are not going to find another guy like this growing on trees. James Russell is not anywhere near the type of pitcher Marshall was.

    • Neil

      And how many times over the past two seasons did Russell get hot in the pen? The appearances do take a toll more than innings pitched.

      • cubtex

        I agree he was used in the wrong role the entire season. He has never been able to get out righties. He doesn’t have the stuff. He was probably more mentally taxed than physically because of that role. Either way, he is not in Sean Marshall’s class and cannot handle that role. Marshall was way overused by the Cubs in 2011 and Reds in 2012 and that is a good reason on why he broke down. imo

        • Neil

          We’re on the same page as to why Marshall broke down. I agree.

          • mutantbeast

            Marshall also throws ton of cutters and curveballs. Those pitchers are harder on the arm than a 4 seam FB is.

          • cubtex

            cutters do not stress the arm.

        • mutantbeast

          Russell is a 2 pitch pitcher, and niether pitch grades out above average. If hes ever going to get righties out, he needs an off speed pitch or a splitter, which unfortunately, with his arm angle, would be tough to command.

  • mutantbeast

    If we want a LH specialist, has anyone considered Matt Thronton? Throws the ball hard and was non-tendered by the Bosox. Why not look into him?

    • Ripsnorter1

      Matt Thorton, aged 37 in Sept, 2014

      Games: 60
      Hey, this guy is a LOOGY!

      Yup. He’s a loogy.
      How’d he do for Boston?
      20 G…15 IP…22 H…
      1.761 WHIP.

      Marmol had a better WHIP in LA, and you know they said
      that he was no good at all……

  • mutantbeast

    Looking at your list of lefties, you missed one name that might be interesting. Im thinking about former Brave Johnny Venters, who had a great year in 2011(tho his perps werent quite as good) before getting hurt last year. He might be a decent name to look into, providing he hasnt signed somewhere already.

    • 07GreyDigger

      Venters is under Braves team control through 2016.

  • John_CC

    The big “in their prime” free agent market is nuts. Who in baseball – execs, managers, fans, media – who would say that Carl Crawford’s 7 year $150MM contract was a good deal? Would anyone even call it fair? My guess is that the answers to those questions are No one and Boras, respectively.

    I think it is completely comical that an agent can come out and say that his player is worth “Crawford money.” That deal has not worked out yet, and the odds that it looks any better before it’s over are slim and none! Yet it is the benchmark for the next deal.
    Say your neighbor paid an exorbitant amount of money for 5 years of a service (Cable TV, or Internet, or whatever) hoping for the best service. But then it actually only worked intermittently and certainly no better than your standard service. Do you think that salesman and company would come to your house the next year and try to sell you the same thing for the same price? Hell NO!

    • 07GreyDigger

      If its Comcast? Then yes. :)

      • John_CC


    • Ripsnorter1

      Great post!

  • TheWrongGuy
    • Vivid_Reality

      Sharks name is hard enough to spell already, pass.

      • TheWrongGuy

        My thought in posting the link wasn’t so much the shortstop at to the arms listed at the bottom.
        Also adding Raicel Iglesias as another arm.. My thought was in adding arms at the age of 22-24 for cheap is only a plus for a stable of arms in the minors.
        If the other players can be added then it only adds to more multiplied amount of talent in our minors. Yet with the Cuban internationals, under the certain age, to sign right now is not a good thing for the Cubs $250k spending limit on international talent.
        This also goes into Theo’s idea of catching lightening in a bottle idea.

        • SuzyS

          If I’m not mistaken, the 250k limit does not go into effect until
          the next international signing period after the June draft.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Thanks Suzy.
            I was unsure of the $250k limit.
            But regardless adding more arms in this style is a good thing in my opinion, kinda like adding Tanaka only money. Forget the real big free agent names, mass amount of talent only adds to the system and overall value. Even if they never pan out as more than bull-pen arms. The overall value and cost effectiveness is worth it in my opinion. Like the old saying goes “Just when you think you have enough arms “You need more””

  • Grace’s breathalyzer

    speaking of southpaws what’s up with Gerardo Concepcion.

    • cubtex

      don’t get me started with that guy :) With your moniker being “Grace’s Breathalyzer” you spelled all your words correctly.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Did he get injured?

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Don’t worry….Theo will get a lefty in the Rule 5 draft.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Whether he can pitch or not, well, it’s unlikely he can keep that ERA under 5.00.

  • Neil

    I have received multiple complaints today about posters editing their comments after the fact without acknowledging the changes in order to further their argument. That practice is not acceptable and will no longer be allowed. The edit button is for correcting spelling mistakes or spacing.

    I receive emails of all comments when they are first published and can see when posts have been edited. If you want to add to your post, simply add a comment or reply to your last post.

    Thanks to everyone for understanding.

  • Roe Skidmore

    Ellsbury doesn’t seem to be a fit at his age and cost for the Cubs

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