MLB Players Luis Valbuena, Jose Castillo Killed In Car Crash In Venezuela
CHICAGO (WGN) – He was one of the players that took part in the early days of the Cubs’ rebuild under Theo Epstein, but was traded away before the team would go onto success from 2015 and the years after.
Yet Luis Valbuena remained a player that fans in Chicago remembered as he continued his career elsewhere in Major League Baseball.
Early Friday morning, the Cubs were one of the many remembering the infielder after his death.
Cardenales de Lara, the Venezuelan league team which Valbuena was currently playing for, confirmed early Friday that he along with teammate Jose Castillo were killed in an automobile accident in Caracas.
“We are living a horrible tragedy in Cardenales de Lara. We lost our players Luis Valbuena and José Castillo in a traffic accident,” the Venezuelan club tweeted.
Valbuena, 33, recently played for the Los Angeles Angels and had been a free agent since the end of the 2018 season. Castillo played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros between 2004 and 2008.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder José Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief,” the Angels said in a statement.
CNN reports that the two men were traveling from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to the northwestern city of Barquisimeto where their team is based for a game on Friday after defeating the Leones del Caracas club, according to the website BeisbolPlay, an official platform for the Professional Venezuela Baseball League.
It appears their vehicle veered off the road after hitting a rock, the website reported.
Cardenales de Lara third baseman and former major league player Carlos Rivero was also on the vehicle and survived the crash. Rivero played for the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals before signing with the Boston Red Sox in December 2013.
The Cubs paid tribute to the late 33-year old on Twitter soon after the news was announced.
Valbuena joined the Cubs in April of 2012 off waivers from the Blue Jays and would play the next three seasons for the Cubs. He was called up from Iowa later that spring and played in 90 games for the team that season, and saw it increase to 108 the next season. Valbuena hit just .218 and .219, respectively those first two years, but was better in a more full-time role in 2014.
In 149 games, Valbuena hit .249 with 16 homers and 51 RBI with an on-base percentage of .341. He was also the primary third baseman, registering a .969 fielding percentage in 124 games at the position.
With Kris Bryant soon to come up to the majors, the Cubs dealt Valbuena to the Astros in a deal that would bring Dexter Fowler to Chicago. As he helped the Cubs to a World Series championship as an anchor in center field and at the top of the lineup, Valbuena played the next two seasons in Houston then two with the Angels.
He started to struggle with his bat in Anaheim, hitting just .199 in 2017 and then again in 2018 before he was designated for assignment in August. Valbuena was playing for Cardenales de Lara at the time of his death.
Starting his career in Seattle in 2008 and playing for the Indians for three seasons before joining the Cubs, Valbuena spent 11 season in the major leagues and played in 1,011 games.