Early last week, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they and shortstop Wander Franco had “mutually agreed” Franco would go on the restricted list. That came after social media posts began circulating around Franco’s alleged relationship with a minor. And the situation has now escalated further.
Last Thursday, reports emerged of the attorney general of the Dominican Republic investigating a complaint filed against Franco by a different minor. There, a person close to the investigation telling MLB insider Héctor Gómez that “It will be very unlikely that Wander Franco will play in MLB again.” And now, MLB has put Franco on administrative leave, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Tuesday:
Wander Franco's administrative leave has now been made official by MLB and the MLBPA. Franco, according to the release, is on leave "until further notice." The league's release notes that admin leave is not disciplinary. Franco will continue to be paid and accrue service on it.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 22, 2023
Here’s more on where the investigations into Franco stand, from Passan:
At least two girls have raised concerns — one publicly, one with law enforcement.
One of the girls, whose name and age have not been independently confirmed, alleged she was in a relationship with Franco and posted pictures with him on social media. Her Instagram account has since been deleted. Still, the allegations were enough for MLB to mobilize its department of investigations to look into the claims.
About a month earlier, a different girl contacted police to discuss Franco, according to Diario Libre, a Dominican newspaper. Prosecutors in Peravia, the Dominican province where Franco grew up, acknowledged that an investigation into him is open and being run by a unit that focuses on minors and gender violence. The lead prosecutor, Olga Dina Llaverias, is well known in the country as a specialist in child abuse cases.
…The application of administrative leave implies that MLB believes it has enough evidence to withstand a potential challenge by Franco.
As Passan’s piece notes, the age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18. And, unlike in some U.S. states, there is no close-in-age exception; any sexual contact by someone 18 or older with someone under the age of 18 is against the law and can be prosecuted.
The 22-year-old Franco made his MLB debut with the Rays in 2021. He made his first MLB All-Star Game appearance this season, and hit .281/.344/.475 in the 112 games he appeared in this season. But his baseball future is certainly in question around these investigations. And, unlike with the Trevor Bauer case where the MLBPA did not agree and MLB had to keep renewing their administrative leave decision, the union and the league have agreed to an “until further notice” leave for Franco.