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[January 5th] -- Mike McCann, agent for pitcher Ryan Franklin, feels sorry for the Washington Nationals. He has a pitcher that we just can't afford to pay.

"It's a situation where they have a limited payroll to work with, and I'm not sure their limitations are going to allow it to happen," adding "we'll continue to talk, but I'm just not sure" a deal can be reached."


The Nationals don't have a limited payroll. They have a fixed payroll that doesn't include the signing of bad pitchers. Though Franklin's career record of 41-57 is bad enough, he was horrid his last two years as a starter with Seattle, going 12-31, 5.00 in 2004 and 2005. Last season's 6-7, 4.54 was his best effort in quite some time, and even at that, it wasn't very good.

And it was as a reliever.

I understand that McCann has to spin his client's lack of talent and - as of Thursday - lack of employment, but to suggest that the Nationals are too poor to afford him -- well, that's just plain crazy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Nationals can probably sign Ramon Ortiz for about the same price as Franklin. Ortiz was 14-18, 4.89 in his last two years before coming to Washington, much better than Franklin's last two years as a starter (12-31, 5.00).

My guess is that McCann is trying to drum up interest for his client. But while the agent was telling the Washington Post that the two sides are far apart, Franklin was telling Bill Ladsen and the Nationals that he'd love to go to the prom with them, if, that is, they pick him up in a nice car and get him drunk. "The Nationals have shown interest, and I'm showing interest back," Franklin said. When asked about dollars, he told Ladsen that he wasn't out to "break the bank."

There used to be a game show when I was a kid called "Break the Bank." Participants didn't have much chance of winning the game just like the Nationals won't have much of a chance winning the game with Franklin on the mound.

Hopefully, Bowden sees what I see, a 33 year old pitcher whose best year as a full time starter was 11-13, and that was several years ago. His one positive is his ability to eat innings. That's all fine and good, but what's the point in eating innings when you have no real chance of winning those games?

No. This would be a signing that would anger the "pro planners" and the "anti planners" alike. And if both sides agree on something, it would be wise to run the other way.


Prospecting For Gold: The Post seems surprised that seven of Baseball America's top ten Nationals prospects have arrived in the last eight months. Why so surprised? The farm system that came with the franchise's move from Montreal has to be considered one of the very worst since the advent of the amateur draft in 1964. Based on the way that previous ownership ran the team, an empty minor league system was a given.

What is surprising, however, is Baseball America's choice for the team's number one prospect.

Collin Balester.

Balester was the Expos/Nationals 4th round selection in the 2004 amateur draft. Straight out of high school, the 18 year old was sent to the Gulf Coast League, a safe place for young arms to develop.

And he did well.

Balester went 1-2, 2.19 in 2004. In 24 innings, the Californian gave up 20 hits, and struck out 21 while walking only 5. Although not dominant, he played well enough to earn a promotion to class 'A' Savannah the following season. Balester had a record there of 8-6, 3.67. He struck out 95 and walked 42. Good numbers. What impresses me most is his hits to innings ratio. In 125 innings, he allowed only 105 hits. Ramon Ortiz would have killed for those kind of numbers.

2006 - at least in the beginning - wasn't pretty for Balester. Pitching for Potomac, the 20 year old went 4-5, 5.19, allowing nearly 14 baserunners per 9 innings while striking out 6. His worst outings were early on, however, and by the time Bob Boone watched him pitch, he was beginning to look like a prospect again. At Boone's urging, Balester was promoted to 'AA' Harrisburg, where he shined. Over 3 starts and 19 innings, he went 1-0, 1.83, dropping his baserunners per 9 innings to less than 10. He'll likely start 2007 in Harrisburg, but expect him to have a train ticket to Columbus in his pocket by midseason if he continues to improve. It's not impossible to think that he might end the season in D.C.

Last year, Baseball America listed Balester as the Nationals #2 prospect behind Ryan Zimmerman, so his difficulty in Potomac certainly didn't change their minds.

Collin Balester was another one of those Expos' 'bargain-basement' choices. He didn't have a good senior season, and was out of shape during the tryout camps. Expos scouting director Dana Brown predicted the night of the 2004 draft that Balester would be in the team's starting rotation well before the end of the decade. Balester is called 'projectable' by the scouts. In other words, his size [6'5", 180] and arm action [loose & easy] help project the kind of pitcher he'll be in the major leagues.

He constantly throws 91-92 mph, and tops the radar gun at 95. His curve has extreme late movement, making his fastball look even faster. His control is very good for his age as his career 213 - 106 strikeout to walk ratio indicates.

There are many decent pitchers in the major leagues today that sport a 95 mph fastball and a biting curve. Most of them have ERA's well over 4.00. Balester has to develop a third pitch to be a top of the rotation guy for the Nationals.

That said, the Nats believe that he has the talent and desire to learn that third pitch, and that he will become a member of their starting rotation before the end of the decade, just as Dana Brown predicted (note: Balester will only be 24 in 2010).

If the improvement he showed at Harrisburg late last year is real, then he very well might reach the level Nationals' management hope. However, if Balester produces Potomac-like numbers in 2007, he'll find himself way down the team's prospect list and off Jim Bowden's radar, at least for the time being.

Time will tell.

Banks, Thanks, and Other Things: I have enjoyed watching the Nationals' blog-o-sphere grow and mature over the past two years. Most of us opened for business about the time the Expos announced that they were moving to Washington. In those early days, it was difficult to differentiate between the various blogs. We all wrote about the same way and about the same things. Over time, however, each of us - whether on purpose or by chance - began to carve out our own little niche within the group. Want to know about the minor leagues? Head on over to NFA. Want a straight shooter who holds no punches? Capitol Punishment is your man. Nats 320 is the place to go to get a behind the scenes look at the Nationals. Me? I'm probably still looking for my niche.

But if you want to find out all there is to find out about a trade, whether it's happened, or may happen, or just rumored, then Banks of the Anacostia is your guy. Banks does a tremendous job of ferreting out stories about possible trades that the rest of us missed. More than once, I was on one side of a possible trade only to find that after reading JE's perspective, I switched sides.

It'll behoove you to find the time to take a stroll along the Banks of the Anacostia. And no, not the one with the floating fish heads and the slimy smell. The one with the really cool logo and the really powerful prose.

His one positive is his ability to eat innings.

Well, Franklin has been associated with one other positive. ;-)

And whether the Nats' payroll is limited or fixed, it pretty clearly does include the signing of bad pitchers -- Redding, Hanrahan, Colby Lewis, Simontacchi . . . ;-)

(Maybe Redding and some others will work out, but flaming out of the big leagues entirely for a season or two is pretty bad.)
Very funny, Basil! I wish I had thought of that first!

True, the Nationals are signing many bad pitchers, but their total payroll costs will likely be less than one veteran bad pitcher. There is a statistical chance that Redding or Hanrahan or Lewis or Simontacchi will produce an average major league season. There's what - 15 of those bargain basement pitchers?

But what's the chance of Franklin suddenly - at 33 no less - figuring out how to win at this level/
I seem to recall that Franklin was suspended by MLB during his 2005 season in Seattle after testing positive for steroids. Roids or no roids, this guy isn't going to help the Nats. I am no fan of Ramon Ortiz, but he is a much better pitcher than Franklin and he will eat more innings too.
I'm with you 100% Phil, and yes he missed some time due to testing positive for steroids.

He's simply not what the Nationals need right now.
Thanks for the kind words, Farid! Rumor-mongering is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it, I suppose.

Speaking as a "pro planner," I wouldn't mind seeing Franklin get signed, as long as it at something less than $3M per.
Just out of curiosity, who isn't a "pro-planner"?
My dad. He died without a will. Talk about not being a "pro-planner."

Its amazing the gall of worthless, less than mediocre, talent with their pimp agents asking for big bucks. People like Franklin should be lucky to still be in the game. And yes, Phil--he was suspended for Steroids two season ago. The MLB player caught..

And Farid: thanks for the kind words on my "inside" info. What are you talking about--you don't have a niche. Your niche is EVERYTHING!!, as far as I can tell.
Farid. In that case, is Joel Hanrahan like the Nats' equivalent to intestate succession. ;-)

SBF, an agent is a pimp and he's gotta do his job. ;-) (And is Franklin really worthless? He doesn't get hurt, and at least that's worth something. Not much, but something.)
I think Farid's niche is connecting all the daily ups-and-downs of the Nats experience to the Big Picture of Washington baseball history, legend, and lore. Tying all the individual threads into a broader tapestry for the benefit of us relative newcomers to the game. That and exemplifying the words of the Damn Yankees song "You Gotta Have Heart." :-)

Anyway, whatever it is, keep doing it, man!
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