Chicago Cubs: No. 43 – Luis Valbuena
Luis Valbuena is another mainstay from the rebuilding years of 2012-2014. Although he wasn’t around for the winning years, he still had a decent three-year run in Chicago.
Valbuena debuted with the Seattle Mariners in 2008 and was traded to the Cleveland Indians for the 2009 season. He had a decent 2009 in 103 games, hitting 25 doubles and 10 home runs. However, it didn’t go as well over the next two years, and after the 2011 season he was sold to the Toronto Blue Jays, then claimed off waivers by the Cubs.
Valbuena served as a solid part-time player in 2012 and 2013, but his biggest season with the Cubs was in 2014, when he played almost every day as the third baseman. In 149 games, he slugged .435, hitting 33 doubles and 16 home runs while driving in 51. Indeed, Valbuena filled in admirably while the organization waited for the highly-touted Kris Bryant to arrive to the big leagues.
Before the 2015 season, with Bryant about ready for the majors, the Cubs traded Valbuena along with pitcher Dan Straily to the Houston Astros for future hero and fan favorite Dexter Fowler. Valbuena hit for more power in Houston, slugging 38 homers in two seasons there. He then spent his final two years in the majors with the Los Angeles Angels, where he hit another 31 homers.
Unfortunately, the Valbuena story has a sad ending. After finishing his major league career, Valubena was playing in a Venezuelan league when he, along with another former major leaguer, Jose Castillo, was killed in a car crash in December of 2018. According to former teammate Anthony Rizzo, “Valbuena was an amazing teammate and friend and will be sincerely missed.”