Rays' Wander Franco charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, moved to MLB's restricted list: Source

Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic formally charged Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco for sexual and commercial exploitation of a minor, according to a statement from the country’s Public Ministry.

The prosecutors presented the formal accusation against Franco on Tuesday. The spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, Nairobi Viloria, confirmed the charges to multiple outlets.

On Wednesday, Franco was moved to MLB’s restricted list after the charges were filed, a league source confirmed. While on the restricted list, Franco will not be paid or accrue major-league service time.

The Tampa Bay Times was the first to report Franco being moved to MLB’s restricted list.

Franco was previously on administrative leave through July 14 as part of a joint agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association.

Franco, 23, has not played since Aug. 12, 2023, when allegations surfaced about an inappropriate relationship with a minor. According to prosecutors, testimony from the 14-year-old girl and testimony from other members of her family, Franco paid the girl’s mother thousands of dollars in cash and other gifts in exchange for the mother’s consent to engage in a sexual relationship with her daughter.

He spent the final weeks of the 2023 season on administrative leave, which the league uses while a player is being investigated under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. He was reinstated to the 40-man roster after the season ended.

At the start of the 2024 season, MLB and the MLBPA agreed to place Franco back on administrative leave. The procedural move allowed the Rays to remove the shortstop, who signed a $182 million extension in 2021, from the 40-man roster.

“Serious charges, very concerning,” said Rays manager Brian Cash on Wednesday. “Probably best (that) I don’t comment much past that. Keep our focus here on this team and we want to finish really strong heading into the all-star break.”

Franco could still be suspended under MLB’s policy, with the outcome depending on the separate investigations conducted by the league and the Dominican authorities.

The presiding judge in the case would next proceed with a preliminary hearing, which in the Dominican Republic is a trial of the evidence. A judge would evaluate the evidence and determine whether the legal requirements for charges have been met. The judge may accept, reject or change the charges against both Franco and the mother of the minor.

This would be the final step before the start of a trial.

The Athletic‘s Brendan Kuty contributed to this story. 

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(Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty)

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