Rays’ Wander Franco placed on administrative leave through June 1 as sexual abuse probe continues

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay All-Star shortstop Wander Franco was placed on administrative leave through June 1 under an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ association while the investigation continues in an alleged relationship with a minor.

Administrative leave is not disciplinary under the sport’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy, and a player continues to be paid. Franco, who has a $2 million salary this year, has remained in his native Dominican Republic while authorities there investigate and did not report to spring training.

The Rays open the season Thursday against Toronto, forcing MLB and the union to make a decision on Franco’s roster status.

Franco has not played since Aug. 12. He was placed on the restricted list for a week on Aug. 14 while MLB launched an investigation following social media posts suggesting Franco was in a relationship with a minor. The AP has not been able to verify the reported posts.

Franco was moved to administrative leave on Aug. 22 and remained there through the end of the season. There is no leave during the offseason.

MLB is likely to wait until the Dominican investigation is concluded before deciding whether there will be any discipline.

Originally accused of commercial and sexual exploitation and money laundering — charges that carry up to 30 years, 10 years and 20 years of prison respectively — Franco stands accused instead of sexual and psychological abuse, according to a judge’s resolution that The Associated Press obtained in January.

Franco had not been formally accused, but if found guilty on the new charge, he could face between two to five years in prison.

Franco, who turned 23 on March 1, was in the midst of his third major league season when his career was halted and was hitting .281 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 40 attempts over 112 games.

Franco agreed to a $182 million, 11-year contract in November 2021.

He earned $706,761 last year in addition to his salary as part of MLB’s pre-arbitration bonus pool, a fund agreed to by the league and players’ association as part of their 2022 labor contract. The bonus pool was created to reward young players, most who earn at or just above the minimum major league salary based on how long they’ve been in the big leagues.

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