Rays' Franco put on restricted list, sources say

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco was placed on the restricted list Wednesday, a day after prosecutors in the Dominican Republic levied three charges against him for an alleged sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old girl, sources told ESPN.

Franco, 23, had previously been on administrative leave as part of a deal between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. The agreement included a provision that administrative leave, during which Franco was paid, would end if he was charged.

Once the administrative leave ended, the Rays requested MLB place Franco on the restricted list for failing to report to the team. The league granted the request and moved Franco to the restricted list, where he will not be paid and not receive major league service time.

Franco was charged Tuesday with sexual abuse, sexual exploitation against a minor and human trafficking after prosecutors spent more than six months building the case against him. The charges carry a potential sentence of up to 20 years.

The move to the restricted list is not a disciplinary action by the league, which is investigating Franco but will not hand down potential discipline against him under its domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy until the charges are resolved. Because Franco cannot leave the Dominican Republic under his bail agreement, his inability to report allowed the Rays to pursue the placement of Franco on the restricted list.

“We are aware of the charges against Mr. Franco,” MLB said in a statement Wednesday. “Our investigation remains open, and we will continue to closely monitor the case as it moves forward.”

According to a nearly 600-page document obtained by ESPN in January outlining the evidence prosecutors gathered, Franco started a relationship with the 14-year-old girl when he was 21. Franco, prosecutors alleged, paid the girl’s mother $1,700 a month and gave her a new car. Dominican authorities charged her Tuesday with money laundering.

Franco, who made his first All-Star team last year, signed an 11-year, $182 million contract in November 2021, less than a year into his major league career. He was paid around $550,000 this year — a prorated 50% of his $2 million salary — before his move to the restricted list, according to sources.

The preliminary hearing for Franco’s criminal case will be Aug. 14, a source told ESPN’s Juan Arturo Recio. When reached by ESPN, Wander Franco’s U.S.-based lawyer, Jay Reisinger, indicated he had just received the official charging documents and declined comment.

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