After switching sides in a rivalry, here’s what Luis Guillorme brings to the Braves

Atlanta Braves infielder  Luis Guillorme slides during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta Braves infielder Luis Guillorme slides during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Luis Guillorme, who is known for his chill and relaxed attitude, faced some fluidity over the winter when the Mets non-tendered him. He stayed free of worry, but wondered what his future might look like.

“That was one of the things that was tough, was not knowing, ‘Where am I going? What’s going on?’” Guillorme said.

Guillorme was a free agent … without being a free agent. He was searching for a new team, but still has two years of team control, including this season.

Six or seven teams were interested in him. In January, he signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Braves.

“It’s tough to say no to Atlanta,” Guillorme said. “Especially being around these guys, being around this team, it’s tough to say no. And for me, it makes the transition a lot easier (that), one, playing against these guys the past five years, it makes it easier coming into this clubhouse (compared with), say, going to a West Coast team that’s in the American League. It would (be) a bigger transition. And also, being in the same division, once I get in there and play, I already know most of the guys in the same division. I know how to play them, I know what they try to do. It makes it a little easier being here.”

It seems that Guillorme, who earned a big-league deal, is penciled into the opening-day roster if he stays healthy. His versatility probably is his best trait. He can play second base, third base and shortstop. He hits for contact from the left side.

And now, the 29-year-old Guillorme has switched sides in the rivalry. The Braves are happy to have him.

When pitcher Luke Jackson was with the Braves, he once told Spencer Strider that his least favorite hitters to face were those who didn’t wear batting gloves.

Guillorme doesn’t wear batting gloves.

“It just shows that they’re picking up the bat, they don’t care if it hurts, they’re gonna swing and they’re gonna fight,” Strider said. “And he kind of has that scrappy, true ‘baseball-er’ feel to him. I think he’s a great asset to us. I’m excited to have him on our team.”

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When asked about Guillorme, Braves manager Brian Snitker offered one of the best compliments a manager can pay a player. “I just look at him as a ballplayer,” Snitker said. Guillorme is talented, but his strong makeup will also be a nice fit, considering he might not see the field a ton.

“The versatility,” Snitker said of what stands out about Guillorme. “I know he’s always a tough at-bat. Just a good player. Just a really good player. From afar, loved him, and I was kind of excited when we signed him. I thought, ‘That’s a really good get,’ because of the versatility and then just the way he plays the game.”

Recently, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos made a great point on why the Braves’ bench might not look strong on paper: It’s difficult to convince accomplished players to sit on the bench. The Braves’ starters play every day. Outside of injuries, the bench roles don’t get much playing time.

Asked if this gave him pause, Guillorme gave an insightful answer. Not only has he been a career backup since his debut in 2018, but he feels the Braves are a better spot for him than rebuilding teams.

“I think I’m more valuable to a team that is like this, a veteran team that’s competing,” Guillorme said. “I think if I go to a younger team, my value is gonna be of my helping guys out. I think for me, it’s kind of gonna be in the same position. (If) I go with young guys and a team with seven veterans, the team with younger guys, more than likely, they’re not probably gonna compete this year, so the young guys are gonna play, no matter what’s going on anyways. For me, it’s being around guys. I’m more valuable here. I’m the guy that’s gonna give these guys a break. I’m still gonna work, gonna compete.”

This is how Guillorme was in New York. He played and worked hard regardless of the opportunity he did, or didn’t, receive. He’s played in no more than 102 games in any of his major-league seasons.

Over 721 career at-bats, Guillorme has hit .261 with a .677 OPS. In 2022, he had a career-high 335 plate appearances. Unless there are injuries, he probably won’t earn that many this season. But as Snitker said, anyone is a stubbed toe or a minor injury away from playing time.

This is a guarantee: Guillorme will be prepared for anything.

“This year, I gotta learn what situations would be my situations coming in,” Guillorme said. “I always compare it to pitchers. Everybody knows their situations. It’s the same thing for me: Once I get to know how the manager likes to use me because it’s always evolving – I might just be a defensive guy first, but I might be (a pinch-hitter) later. So it’s something that you gotta learn to follow along with the game and know what situations are for you, what situations are for your teammates. It’s something that I’ve always taken pride in is knowing what’s gonna happen ahead of time so I’m prepared.”

Over the offseason, Guillorme worked on improving his body, including his flexibility. In 2023, he strained his right calf. He’s trying to stay healthy.

Two seasons ago, the Mets led the Braves by 10-1/2 games in the National League East standings … only to see the Braves storm back. On the final weekend of the regular season, the Mets needed one win at Truist Park to position themselves to win the division.

They lost all three.

“It was not fun,” Guillorme said of the mood in the clubhouse after the Braves swept his Mets.

Well, now he’s on the team that has won the division six years in a row and is the favorite to do it again.

“I liked being in New York, I never had a problem with New York,” Guillorme said. “It was just, you know, stuff like (the non-tender) happens. I’m happy to be here. It’s a good group of guys, and everybody knows what type of team this is.”