Aug. 14: The Rays made the following announcement Monday:
“The Tampa Bay Rays and Wander Franco have mutually agreed that he will go on the Restricted List and take leave from the Club for the duration of the current road trip.”
MLB has opened an official investigation into the matter, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays added in a follow-up statement:
“We support any steps taken by the league to better understand the situation. Out of respect for all parties involved, we have no further comments at this time.”
Aug. 13, 10:31PM: Franco didn’t travel with the Rays on the team plane to San Francisco for the club’s upcoming series with the Giants, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter links). The Rays declined to comment on Franco’s absence.
9:00PM: The Rays released a statement today in regard to social media posts involving Wander Franco, noting that the league has begun looking into the matter. Earlier this afternoon, allegations of an inappropriate relationship between Franco and a minor were made on X, leading to Franco’s name becoming a trending topic as the initial posts went viral.
As per the Rays’ statement…
“During today’s game, we were made aware of the social media posts that are circulating regarding Wander Franco. We take the situation seriously and are in close contact with Major League Baseball as it conducts its due diligence.”
Franco didn’t play in Tampa’s 9-2 loss to the Guardians today, and manager Kevin Cash told Kristie Ackert of the Tampa Bay Times and other reporters that the absence was just a rest day, as the 22-year-old Franco had played in the Rays’ previous 40 consecutive games. Ackert writes that Franco left the dugout about midway through the game and wasn’t in the clubhouse afterward. Rays GM Peter Bendix was in the clubhouse after the game but declined comment on the matter, while Cash said that he was “aware of this speculation” but was “not going to comment any further on that.”
Steady playing time notwithstanding, Franco hadn’t been showing any signs of slowing down, and in fact was in the midst of one of his best stretches of the season. The shortstop had a 1.280 OPS over his last 63 plate appearances, and his overall slash line sits at .281/.344/.475 over 491 PA. Franco also has 17 home runs, 30 steals (in 40 chances), and outstanding defensive numbers, adding up to a 4.8 fWAR that ranks fifth among all Major League position players.
Debuting during the 2021 season as the consensus top prospect in baseball, Franco finishing third in AL Rookie Of The Year voting in his first year, despite playing in only 70 games. The Rays felt so strongly about Franco’s potential that he was signed to the biggest contract in franchise history — an 11-year, $182MM contract extension that runs through the 2032 season, with a club option for 2033.