Free-agent infielder Luis Valbuena and former Major League infielder Jose Castillo died in a car accident Thursday in Venezuela, according to their Cardenales de Lara team in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Valbuena, 33, batted .199 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs in 96 games for the Angels last season before being released in August. He was a career .226 hitter with 114 homers and 367 RBIs over 11 big league seasons, also playing for the Mariners, Indians, Cubs and Astros.
Castillo, 37, last appeared in the Major Leagues for the Astros in 2008. He also played for the Pirates and Giants in parts of five Major League seasons, batting .254 with 39 homers and 218 RBIs.
The Houston Chronicle, citing reports out of Venezuela, reported that the players' car hit a rock in the road. Both had played for Lara in Thursday night's game at Caracas.
Tributes from around the baseball community are pouring in following the tragic deaths of Valbuena and Castillo.
"The Astros family lost two young men yesterday, entirely too soon," the team said in a statement. "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."
Indians pitcher Danny Salazar tweeted, "So sad for this news, God has a good place for you in heaven mi amigo, all My condolences to the Valbuena and Castillo's family #ripbrother."
Braves catcher Rene Rivera, who played with Valbuena briefly this past season, also tweeted, "Sad to wake up to the news of the loss of teammate Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo. Praying for their families to find comfort in such a difficult time. You will be missed ValBueeeeeena."
A teammate of Valbuena for two years, Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs wrote, "RIP Luuuuuu ... I will miss you brotha. Gone way too soon. Great teammate and great person. Every day he would have a smile that would light up the room."

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