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Wander Franco update pushed to Tuesday; status unlikely to change much

Either an extension of the Rays shortstop’s stay on baseball’s restricted list or a shift to the more formal administrative leave is expected.
 
Rays shortstop Wander Franco, pictured in the on-deck circle during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in May at Tropicana Field, is expected to remain sidelined for the time being.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco, pictured in the on-deck circle during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in May at Tropicana Field, is expected to remain sidelined for the time being. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 22, 2023|Updated Aug. 22, 2023

UPDATE: Wander Franco on Tuesday was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball.

ST. PETERSBURG — Talks concerning the status of Rays shortstop Wander Franco will carry over until Tuesday but are not expected to change the outcome. He will remain sidelined, either through an extension of his stay on the restricted list or a shift to administrative leave.

An announcement will be made in advance of the Rays’ 6:40 p.m. game against the Colorado Rockies at Tropicana Field.

Franco’s status was the subject of conversation between several parties Monday, as he is being investigated by Major League Baseball after recent social media posts alleged he had inappropriate relationships with one or more minors. Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy is administered by the league and the players union. Franco also is represented.

Franco, 22, also is being investigated by authorities in his native Dominican Republic, reportedly by the National Agency for Boys, Girls, Adolescents and Family and Gender Violence Unit. A prosecutor there said an update could come this week on the status of that process.

In what the Rays called a “mutually agreed” decision, Franco on Aug. 14 was placed on the restricted list for the duration of last week’s six-game West Coast road trip. Though the trip ended Saturday — moved up a day due to the approach of Tropical Storm Hilary — there was no need for an update on Franco’s status until Tuesday, the day of the Rays’ next scheduled game.

With MLB and the union now seemingly running the process, Franco may be headed to administrative leave.

It is a more formal assignment and one used when a player is being investigated, especially when the accusations have been made public before the process is complete. It is not considered disciplinary, and as Franco and the Rays agreed in the restricted list move he would continue to receive his $2 million salary and service time.

MLB can place a player it is investigating on administrative leave for up to a week at a time, then extend it with union approval. The player can challenge placement on administrative leave by going before an arbitration panel, so MLB presumably would be confident in its position if it chose to go that route.

Another factor for placing someone on administrative leave is the potential for the issue to “cause significant disruption” to the player’s team.

Administrative leave is not necessarily a precursor to league discipline. Nor does an absence of criminal charges preclude the league from imposing a suspension or other action.

Franco last played for the Rays Aug. 12 against the Cleveland Guardians. He was scheduled to be off the following day, when the social media posts went viral. He was placed on the restricted list on Aug. 14.

Franco is having a strong season, hitting .281 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and an .819 OPS. His 5.5 WAR rating, per baseball-reference.com, is tied for fifth-best among all position players in the majors. His 2.2 defensive WAR is tops. The Rays are 4-3 during the current stretch without him, with prospect Osleivis Basabe called up to replace him at shortstop.

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The Rays have been taking some subtle steps to distance themselves from Franco, such as dropping highlights of his play from TV commercials airing during games.

That will make it interesting to see what happens to the large Franco banner on the Tropicana Field rotunda and other signage of him in and around the stadium. Similarly, there is the question of whether Franco merchandise still will be available or displayed in the team store.

The Rays are home through the weekend, hosting the Rockies Tuesday-Thursday, then the Yankees Friday-Sunday.

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