Rays place Wander Franco on restricted list

The Tampa Bay Rays placed Wander Franco on the restricted list now that he has been formally charged with sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor in the Dominican Republic, the Tampa Bay Times and ESPN reported Wednesday.

Franco had been on paid administrative leave. Now that he has been charged and cannot report, the Rays requested and Major League Baseball approved the shift to the restricted list, which comes without pay.

The move is not disciplinary action.

Franco has been under investigation since July 2023 following a formal complaint that accused the now 23-year-old of having a sexual relationship with a minor. A second formal complaint was filed a month later alleging the same crime.

Franco was allegedly having a relationship with a 14-year-old girl, according to the first complaint, and paying the teenager’s mother for consent. Dominican prosecutors initially accused him of commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering charges on Jan. 3. Then on Jan. 9, a judge lessened the charge, changing it to sexual and psychological abuse.

MLB and the MLB Players’ Association had extended Franco’s administrative leave through this coming Sunday to give Dominican authorities more time to work on the case. Franco has been away from the Rays since Aug. 14, 2023, first spending time on the restricted list before going on administrative leave on March 28.

On top of the criminal investigation, MLB also looked into the allegations. Its investigation is not expected to be completed until the criminal case wraps up. In a statement Wednesday, MLB said, “We are aware of the charges against Mr. Franco. Our investigation remains open, and we will continue to closely monitor the case as it moves forward.”

Franco spent three seasons with Tampa Bay, posting career highs last year in homers (17), RBIs (58) and stolen bases (30) while making the American League All-Star team.