Wander Franco Taken Off Rays’ Roster—But He’s Still Getting Paid

Reuters/Rick Osentoski
Reuters/Rick Osentoski

The embattled MLB star Wander Franco was taken off the Tampa Bay Rays’ 40-man roster and placed on administrative leave Thursday—an Opening Day move that keeps the 23-year-old on the payroll despite him not featuring for the team since August, multiple reports said Thursday.

Franco stands accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor and for breaking money-laundering laws in his native Dominican Republican, but he’s yet to be criminally charged there.

Franco’s move to administrative leave was a joint decision between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, the Tampa Bay Times and ESPN reported, citing sources.

Sources told ESPN the agreement would allow Franco’s status with MLB to change depending on how his case plays out. Those sources added there isn’t a concrete timeline for when Franco could possibly be charged or exonerated, leaving the Rays in limbo as they await investigators’ findings into one of their highest-paid players in franchise history.

The last development before Thursday’s move, which came hours before the Rays opened their season against the Toronto Blue Jays, was in January. That’s when a coercive measures hearing, attended by Franco, gave prosecutors six months to present evidence that backs up their accusation against the player.

Wander Franco Accused of Paying Thousands in Hush Money to Teen Victim’s Mom

Franco was first accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage teen in August, when photos emerged on social media of him smiling in selfies with a girl who was reportedly his accuser. That girl alleged Franco had sex with her when he was 21 and she wasn’t yet 18.

MLB announced last year it was investigating Franco, but the league has been largely handcuffed until Dominican prosecutors produce more evidence in the case. Depending on its own findings, the league could choose to suspend Franco.

As his case is in limbo, the Rays are still on the hook to pay Franco’s annual salary. He remains under contract with the team through 2032 and is owed $174 million.

If there are developments in Franco’s criminal case in the next three months, the Rays could place Franco on the restricted list after June 1—which would make him ineligible for pay.

ESPN reported that an alternate agreement could also be made between the parties.

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