Angel Villalona AP

Cleared of murder charges, Angel Villalona added to Giants’ to 40-man roster

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In case you didn’t notice, yesterday was the day teams set their 40-man rosters in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. Most of the moves are expected and usually include many guys you’ve never heard of, but occasionally a surprise is thrown our way. For instance, the Giants have added former top prospect Angel Villalona to their 40-man roster.

Villalona, who received a club-record $2.1 million signing bonus as a 16-year-old in 2006, hasn’t played professionally in over two years after being accused of killing a 25-year-old man in a Dominican Republic nightclub in September of 2009. Charges were eventually dismissed as part of a $139,000 settlement with the victim’s family, but Villalona sued the Giants for $5 million earlier this summer claiming they violated the terms of his contract following his arrest. After the two sides settled the lawsuit in September, the Giants were prepared to welcome him back in the organization.

Villalona is currently at the Giants’ complex in the Dominican working his way into baseball shape, but he isn’t completely out of the woods yet. While Giants president of baseball operations Bobby Evans told Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News that he was removed from the restricted list about a month ago, he is still awaiting a work visa to return to the United States.

The Giants apparently feel that Villalona is worth protecting, but his stock was dropping as a prospect even before the murder charges. He had an ugly 235/42 K/BB ratio over his first three professional seasons and his lack of conditioning led many to believe he was best suited as a designated hitter in the long run. He’s still only 21 years old, so we can’t call him a lost cause, but he has a long way to go before being taken seriously as a prospect again.

Brett Lawrie will take a pay cut to avoid arbitration with White Sox

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 12: Brett Lawrie #15 of the Chicago White Sox fields a ground ball during batting practice before the start of the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 12, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
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Infielder Brett Lawrie successfully avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract with the White Sox on Friday, per a team announcement. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman added that the deal was for $3.5 million, significantly lower than the $4.125 million Lawrie was paid by the White Sox in 2016.

The White Sox acquired Lawrie last December in a swap for minor league arms Zack Erwin and J.B. Wendelken. After splitting time at second and third base for the Athletics in 2015, Lawrie slotted in at second base and DH for the White Sox and batted .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs in 384 PA. While it’s strange to see a healthy, fairly productive player receive a salary reduction in arbitration, Lawrie missed nearly half of the season with a strain in his left hamstring, though he’s projected to return at full health by the start of the 2017 season.

Cubs sign LHP Brian Duensing to a one-year, $2 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Brian Duensing #50 of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch in the eleventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.

The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.