Washington developer John Akridge, leader of a group of investors that is among six finalists for the two expansion franchises the National League will add for the 1993 season, said yesterday he is trying to recruit a big-name investor to bolster the group's image.

NL Expansion Committee Chairman Douglas Danforth of the Pittsburgh Pirates said yesterday that several of the Akridge group's competitors for the two teams have "stronger capitalization." That assessment comes as no surprise given that the backers of other finalists include Blockbuster Entertainment's Wayne Huizenga (Miami), frozen food magnate Robert Rich (Buffalo) and Amway Corporation's co-founder Rich DeVos (Orlando). Well-financed groups from Denver and Tampa-St. Petersburg also remain in contention.

Akridge said his group has enough money to bring baseball to Washington, but no single investor can match the worth of someone such as Redskins' owner Jack Kent Cooke. But Danforth was not concerned with that situation, and said his committee will discuss the issue with Akridge's group. The four-member expansion committee will visit the six cities during the next two months.

"As I understand it, since September they have been firming up their capital status," said Danforth, whose committee received responses to an extensive questionnaire and $100,000 deposits on the $95 million entry fee in September. "When we visit in late January or early February, we will readdress questions about capitalization, but we are confident Washington is on the right track and will continue to finalize its capital package."

He emphasized that financing is only one factor in a decision that also will take into account quality of ownership, government support, stadium and a number of other issues.

Akridge said some of his current group of 16 investors are willing to pay as much as $10 million apiece. Sovran Bank/DC National President Robert Pincus, who has been helping Akridge organize the group, said it has commitments for $105 million to $110 million in "real money" -- just short of its goal of $120 million to $125 million.

Akridge said the group could reach its goal with more $5-million to $10-million commitments, but that "doesn't do as much for us as going with a big name who's recognized outside of the area.

"There's money and then there's money," he said. "We don't have a guy with a zillion dollars. We're looking for the guy or the company who can be the lead horse."

Akridge said he has a number of prospects, but declined to name them. He said that, though his group and a group seeking a team for Northern Virginia both were in the running, some prospective investors from the Washington area were "on the fence and didn't want to support one group over the other."

Although he wants all of his investors to be Washingtonians, he said he may have to go outside the area to find "a really big hitter," noting that relatively few local investors have celebrity status.

It's all a matter of perception, he said. Perception also will play a role as his group tries to overcome the city's homicide rate and RFK Stadium's reputation as an outdated football stadium.

On the stadium front, there would appear to be good news as Danforth complimented Akridge's $30-million to $40-million plan to renovate RFK Stadium. "We'd prefer a new stadium, but I was impressed with the amount of money they are willing to spend to make it a playable facility," Danforth said.

The group Akridge has assembled includes boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald H. Brown, Republican National Committee spokesman Charles R. Black and Donald Dell, a former Davis Cup captain who now is chairman of the board of the Arlington-based sports marketing and management firm ProServ.

But the group's greatest financial strength comes from more obscure players, such as construction executives Howard and Stanley Bender; Allyn E. Kilsheimer, who heads a structural engineering firm; Gilbert H. Kinney, an art investor, and Melvyn J. Estrin, who has made money in various businesses, including corporate takeovers.

Akridge said the partners should be able to meet their commitments despite trouble in the regional economy and the decline of the Washington real estate industry, although he said he has "some" concerns.

Along with the Benders and Kilsheimer, the partnership includes a number of Akridge's associates in the real estate business, including John M. McMahon and Nicholas G. Paleologos of Miller & Long Co., Inc., a cement contractor, and Robert L. Cohen, president of Barnes Morris & Pardoe, a commercial real estate brokerage.

The value of Estrin's publicly disclosed holdings in MNC Financial Inc., a banking company hit hard by the commercial real estate industry's downward spiral, has declined to about $4 million from about $23 million in late March. Akridge said that decline "doesn't affect {Estrin's} ability to live up to his commitments," and that Estrin is considering increasing his stake in the baseball partnership.

Akridge himself is perceived as less vulnerable to the real estate recession than most Washington developers. He has structured his deals cautiously, avoiding conventional bank debt and witholding the kinds of personal loan guarantees that have pushed other major developers to the brink of bankruptcy. The tradeoffs are that Akridge has not made as much money on paper as other developers less averse to risk.

"We've given up profit for safety," Akridge said.