MLB Player's Status Determined Following Rumored Relationship With Minors

By Jason Hall

March 28, 2024

Tampa Bay Rays v Washington Nationals
Photo: Getty Images North America

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been placed on administrative leave through June 1 amid multiple accusations of inappropriate relationships with underage girls dating back to last season, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported on Thursday (March 28), hours before Major League Baseball began its Opening Day slate for the 2024 season.

"News: Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been placed on administrative leave through June 1 per an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, a source tells ESPN. Franco's status could change before then depending on proceedings in the criminal case in the Dominican Republic," Passan wrote on his X account. "Wander Franco spent the final six weeks of last season on paid administrative leave, and with the allegations of a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old still legally unresolved, the league and union agreed to two more months of admin leave."

Authorities in the Dominican Republic reportedly raided two homes linked to Franco on December 26, the New York Post reported at the time. The Santo Domingo Prosecutor's Office for Children and Adolescents searched Franco's home in Villa Real, as well as one belonging to Franco's mother in Baní, according to the Dominican newspaper Listin Diario.

Authorities initially confirmed that they were investigating the accusations made against Franco, 23, in late August. A complaint against Franco was filed by a 17-year-old girl in his native Dominican Republic in July, the Dominican newspaper Diario Libre reported on August 14.

The report came after a Facebook post re-shared on X claimed Franco "was dating a 14 year old and she is exposing him after he didn't send her the hush money." Diario Libre specified that the underage girl who filed the complaint was not the girl mentioned in the social media posts.

The Rays placed Franco "on administrative leave until further notice" amid the allegations on August 22. The two sides had previously agreed to his placement on the restricted list on August 14. Franco appeared to deny the allegations in a video shared on Instagram Live shortly after the allegations were reported.

“They say that I’m in public with a little girl, that I’m running around with a minor,” Franco said in Spanish. “People don’t know what to do with their time. They don’t know what they’re talking about."

Rays manager Kevin Cash initially claimed that Franco's absence from the lineup was due to a scheduled day off and denied being aware of the speculation. On August 17, a source close to Major League Baseball's investigation into Franco told MLB insider Héctor Gómez that Franco's career was likely over.

"A person very close to the investigations into the case of Wander Franco: 'It will be very unlikely that Wander Franco will play in MLB again, judging by the results of the investigations that are currently being carried out, which directly commit him to the accusations against him,'" Gómez wrote.

Franco's wife, Rachelly Paulino, his childhood sweetheart from the Dominican Republic, was identified publicly amid the allegations, according to the Daily Mail. The couple has reportedly been married since 2021 and shares two sons, however, their current standing is unclear.

Franco signed an 11-year extension with the Rays in November 2011 after a breakout rookie season and was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time in 2023, hitting for a .281 average with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs in 442 at-bats. The Dominican native ranked as one of the top prospects for the 2017 international class when he initially signed with the franchise that same year.

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