Pat Gillick is trusting his instincts on his latest signing. All signs point to Ryan Franklin being a pitcher that the Phillies should have avoided. Instead, Gillick, who was general manager of the Mariners early in Franklin's career in Seattle, believes he's a good choice for the starting rotation. "He's going to pitch a lot better than he has the last couple of seasons," professed Gillick. It's one of those moves that if it works, Gillick looks like a genius and if it doesn't, we all get to wonder what he was thinking.
The first concern could be the fact that Franklin is the only pitcher to lose 15 games in each of the last two seasons. "I think Ryan pitched better than his numbers indicated," said an optimistic Gillick. "He's going to pitch a lot better than he has the last couple of seasons. We think he's going to bounce back and take a spot in our rotation." Franklin has gone 12-31 with a 4.99 ERA over the last two seasons with Seattle after getting a good start to his major league career as a starter. Even with his struggles, Franklin's career ERA is 4.34 and he's averaged 201 1/3 innings over the last three years. Part of Franklin's problem has been the 95 homeruns that he's given up over the past three seasons, which could be a big problem pitching in Citizens Bank Park. The homerun numbers are especially tough when you consider that about half of the homeruns that Franklin surrendered came in Safeco Field where pitchers generally love to pitch, because it's not known as a homerun haven. On the upside, the most homeruns that Franklin has ever surrendered in a season came in 2003 when he gave up 34 longballs, but he posted a 3.57 ERA that year.
One big red flag waving over Franklin is a ten-game suspension that he served last August after testing positive for steroids. Like most who have been caught, Franklin maintains his innocence. "I still say to this day I never, ever, ever used any of that stuff and I never will," exclaimed Franklin. In fact, Franklin was one of the few major leaguers calling for stiffer penalties for violating the league substance abuse policy. Franklin maintains that he has no idea how he tested positive and that he used only over the counter products from a nutrition store. In the future though, he'll have any products that he may take run by the Phillies medical staff to be sure that they aren't against league policies. Gillick believes Franklin's side of the story. "In his case, he said he was taking protein shakes and got products from a nutrition store. I think that's where it ends," said Gillick.
When Franklin returned from his suspension, he and Mariners' pitching coach Bryan Price had to be separated in the dugout after the two got into a heated altercation. It started when Franklin struggled through a bad first inning against Minnesota and Price told him to calm down. "I'm super competitive. I've been working on not getting too crazy. What can I say? I'm a redneck," laughed Franklin. Reportedly, two days after the incident, Price and Franklin were back on good terms, but Franklin admits that he probably at least came close to wearing out his welcome. "I heard changes are good," said Franklin in referring to leaving Seattle.
Even with all of his warts, Gillick believes that Franklin will be a valuable addition. "He's an excellent competitor who comes right after the hitter. He doesn't fool around," is how Gillick describes his latest signing.
Since the Phillies are banking on Franklin only to be a part of the back part of their rotation, they may be okay. Nobody is saying that Franklin is the ace that the Phillies have been looking for or that they expect him to be a 20 game winner. All the Phillies are looking for is someone who can hold the fort as their fourth or fifth starter and eat some innings for them. Franklin's signing doesn't look as questionable if the Phillies can still go out and get a quality top of the rotation type starter in a deal with another club. At that point, Franklin will just be one of the "other" signings that the Phillies made this winter. For now though, his signing stands out like a sore thumb.
If you look at Franklin's signing as being a replacement for Vicente Padilla, you have an interesting comparison on your hands. While Padilla has better career stats, both pitchers have struggled over the last couple of seasons. Granted, Padilla's struggles haven't been as bad as Franklin's, but then again, he didn't have the injury problems that Padilla has had and has given 130 more innings of work over the last two years. Plus, Franklin comes at $2.6 million while Padilla would have likely cost the Phillies $4 million through arbitration.