Wander Franco reinstated to roster in procedural move, status unchanged

ST. PETERSBURG — Wander Franco was reinstated to the Rays’ 40-man roster in a procedural move Thursday but his status to return to playing remains unchanged and uncertain.

The 22-year-old shortstop still is under investigation by Major League Baseball following allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors, with the potential for a suspension under the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.

He is also being investigated by authorities in his native Dominican Republic, where at least two complaints have reportedly been filed, under the auspices of the National Agency for Boys, Girls, Adolescents and Family and Gender Violence Unit.

There have been no updates on the investigations or timetables issued for conclusion.

Franco had been on indefinite administrative leave — a non-disciplinary status used when accusations against a player are made public before MLB completes an investigation — since Aug. 22, shortly after an initial allegation surfaced on social media.

But administrative leave is only used during the season, so Wednesday’s end of the World Series required him to be placed back on the roster.

The Rays — already facing a roster crunch — will have to use a roster spot for him throughout the offseason.

Plus they face an additional issue as Franco’s replacement at shortstop, Taylor Walls, recently underwent right hip surgery and might not be ready for opening day, likely leading them to make contingency plans for both not to be available for the March 28 opener, and to potentially acquire another shortstop candidate.

A league official confirmed Thursday that the investigation into Franco remains ongoing and that the status change was strictly a procedural move as administrative leave is not in effect during the offseason.

Franco, who in July made his first All-Star team, last played for the Rays on Aug. 12, the day before social media posts first surfaced and quickly went viral. On Aug. 14 he was placed on the restricted list by mutual agreement with the Rays, then shifted to administrative leave, which is under MLB control.

Under league and union rules, he continued to receive his $2 million salary and service time. He just completed the second season of a franchise-record contract that guaranteed him $182 million over 11 years and could be worth up to $223 million over 12. He is still due $174 million of guaranteed money.

If Franco’s status is not resolved by the opening of spring training in mid-February, he could be shifted back to administrative leave.

The Rays declined comment Thursday, as they have on his status since he was placed on administrative leave. They removed signage, photos and merchandise featuring Franco, and had him edited out of TV commercials, shortly after the first allegation surfaced, then for the playoffs cleared out his locker so it could be used by another player.

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