Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball on Tuesday amid multiple investigations into alleged relationships he had with underaged girls in his native Dominican Republic.
The 22-year-old Franco, who missed the past week after the Rays placed him on the restricted list, is being investigated by Dominican police, as well as MLB’s department of investigations. While no charges have been filed against Franco, a prosecutor last week said a division specializing in minors and gender violence is directing the police investigation.
The designation of administrative leave is a significant but expected step by the league. Administrative leave removes a player from a team’s roster during an ongoing investigation into a potential violation of the sport’s domestic violence policy and can be extended indefinitely with the approval of the MLB Players Association.
Should Franco not challenge the leave, which is his right during the first seven days, the league could ask the MLBPA to consent to a seven-day extension of the initial designation. Following the first 14 days on administration leave, the MLBPA and MLB must come to an agreement on any further extension.
MLB started its investigation into Franco within hours of social media messages Aug. 13 that alluded to Franco’s relationship with a girl under the age of consent, which is 18 in the Dominican Republic. A prosecutor in the province of Peravia, where Franco’s hometown of Bani is the capital, told The Associated Press last week that an investigation with “a minor involved” is in its early stages and will be led by Olga Dina Llaverias, a prosecutor who specializes in child-abuse cases. Diario Libre, a Dominican newspaper, had reported a 17-year-old girl filed a complaint with the attorney general against Franco in July.
The social media storm on Aug. 13 prompted the Rays to keep Franco from joining the team in San Francisco, where it was scheduled to play the next day. Tampa Bay and Franco agreed for him to spend the next week on the restricted list, but with a home series starting Tuesday against Colorado, the use of administrative leave rather than an extension of his restricted-list stay was expected.
If Franco were to challenge administrative leave — during which he will be paid and accrue service time — the case would go to a neutral arbitrator, who would decide whether there is “credible information” to support the allegations against him or if Franco rejoining the Rays would “cause significant disruption” to the team.
MLB and the MLBPA, as well as Franco’s attorney, Jay Reisinger, declined comment.
Franco, who is in the second year of an 11-year, $182 million contract, was in the midst of a breakout season, batting .281/.344/.475 with 17 home runs, 30 stolen bases and his first All-Star Game appearance.