Free agent infielder Luis Valbuena and former major league infielder Jose Castillo died Thursday in a car crash in Venezuela, where they were playing for a winter league team.
Their club, Cardenales de Lara, confirmed the deaths of Valbuena, 33, and Castillo, 37. Both played for the team Thursday before the accident.
According to media accounts from Venezuela, the crash occurred in Yaracuy. Conflicting reports indicated that the car they were in either hit a rock or swerved to avoid a rock before going off the road. The chauffeur and infielder Carlos Rivero, a teammate of Valbuena and Castillo who was also in the car, survived.
All three players were born in Venezuela.
Valbuena was in the major leagues as recently as August, when he was released by the Los Angeles Angels. He hit .199 with a .253 on-base percentage, a .335 slugging percentage, nine homers and 33 RBIs in 96 games for Los Angeles this year.
The Angels tweeted Thursday night, “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Angel Luis Valbuena and former MLB infielder Jose Castillo. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this time of grief.”
Primarily a third baseman who also saw action at the other three infield positions, Valbuena hit a career-high 25 homers for the Houston Astros in 2015. In an 11-year major league career, he batted .226 with a .310 on-base percentage, a .394 slugging percentage, 114 homers and 367 RBIs in 1,011 games.
Valbuena broke into the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 2008. He subsequently played for the Cleveland Indians (2009-11), the Chicago Cubs (2012-14), the Astros (2015-16) and the Angels (2017-18).
Castillo played five years in the majors, for the Pittsburgh Pirates (2004-07), the San Francisco Giants (2008) and the Astros (2008). In 592 career games, he hit .254 with a .296 on-base percentage, a .379 slugging percentage, 39 homers and 218 RBIs.
He played mostly second base and third base.
Rivero, 30, had a brief major league stint with the Boston Red Sox in 2014. He collected four hits in seven at-bats (.571 average) while hitting a home run and driving in three runs.
He was in the minor leagues in the United States as recently as 2017, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A Reno affiliate. He played this year for Tijuana in the Mexican League.