Former Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena killed in car crash in Venezuela

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 18: Luis Valbuena #24 of the Chicago Cubs bats during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on September 18, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs 8-4. (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – 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.

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.