The Major League Baseball family lost two members to a car crash Friday morning. The league announced that free agent infielder Luis Valbuena and former player Jose Castillo died in a car accident:
We are saddened by the tragic news that Luis Valbuena and former major leaguer José Castillo have died in a car accident. pic.twitter.com/C3nILO00SE— MLB (@MLB) December 7, 2018
The two Venezuelans were playing winter ball in their native country and took part in a game Thursday night. On their way home, it looks like they might have been targeted in a robbery. According to BeisbolPlay (via the Los Angeles Times), authorities believe the players and two other passengers -- who survived -- could have been targets of a criminal act. It seems like some groups in Venezuela throw rocks onto roads in order to disable vehicles and then rob those in the car.
The publication further reports that four suspects were arrested by police and had some of Valbuena and Castillo's personal belongings.
Castillo played in parts of five seasons in the majors from 2004-08. He spent the overwhelming majority of that time with the Pirates. In 592 career games, he hit .256/.297/.380 with 103 doubles, 39 homers and 13 steals. Since 2008, he's bounced around between the Mexican League, Venezuelan Winter League and a stint in Japan.
Valbuena played for the Mariners, Indians, Cubs, Astros and Angels.
The Astros have released the following statement on Valbuena:
"The Astros family lost two young men yesterday, entirely too soon. During his two seasons in Houston, Luis was an extremely popular player with his teammates and the Astros staff. He was a productive player on the field and played a key role in the Astros run to the postseason in 2015. Off the field, he was a warm and friendly presence to all who interacted with him. Jose's time with the Astros was brief, but he also had a positive impact on those around him. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends."
He just finished a two-year deal with the Angels. He played all over the infield through his career, starting more up the middle and finishing as a corner guy. In 1,011 career games, he hit .226/.310/.394 with 169 doubles and 14 home runs. He'll be remembered for being a popular teammate and fun player to watch, especially when he had his power stroke going.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said, "Luis was always smiling and was one of the happiest players in baseball. He provided joy to his teammates and our fans. He helped our franchise turn a corner in 2015 and provided many cherished memories. We will forever remember him."
"I am so sad to hear about the sudden loss of Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I will miss Luis' banter, smile, genuine love for his teammates, and, of course, the bat flips. He was a beloved person whether he was on our team or across the field. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the lucky ones who could call him a teammate or friend."
Valbuena was 33. Castillo was 37.