MLB puts Rays Wander Franco on administrative leave: What that means and latest on investigations

Major League Baseball placed the Tampa Bay Rays’ Wander Franco on administrative leave Tuesday, extending Franco’s time away from the Rays for an unknown amount of time. MLB Central Office and authorities in the Dominican Republic have separate ongoing investigations into allegations that Franco had an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

“Pursuant to an agreement between the MLB and the MLBPA, Wanderer Franco has been placed on administrative leave until further notice while MLB continues its ongoing investigations,” the league said in a statement. “The administrative leave, effective immediately, is not disciplinary under the Common Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. We will comment further in due course.”

The MLBPA and Franco’s personal attorney, Jay Reisinger, declined to comment.

“We support Major League Baseball’s decision to place Wanderer Franco on administrative leave,” Rays said in a statement Tuesday morning. The Tampa Bay Rays are dedicated to upholding high standards of integrity on and off the field. We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans and supporters as this process evolves. We won’t have any more data on this matter until MLB completes its process.

Several people briefed on the arrangement that placed Franco on administrative leave said that the leave does not have a fixed end date tied to a specific day in the calendar, which is usually how administrative leave has been organized in the past. Rather, leave is associated with certain things happening during the investigation. It wasn’t immediately clear what all those specific events were, the sources said, but a pending criminal case in the Dominican Republic is one factor.

As of Tuesday morning, Franco’s postseason eligibility had not been ruled out, people familiar with the arrangements said. It could come back, depending on what happens from here.

Through this arrangement, the League and the federation now avoid the prospect of having to formally agree to Franco’s extension every seven or 14 days. (This is the vacation period stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement.)

Franco had been away from the Rays since late on August 13, shortly before the team left for a six-game road trip. The 22-year-old shortstop did not travel with the group after allegations of an inappropriate relationship circulated online earlier that day. Through a video on Instagram, Franco denied the allegations.

A player does not have to go on administrative leave to be investigated by MLB or ultimately penalized. Instead, it is an option that the commissioner’s office usually resorts to when allegations about a player are made public before the league completes its investigation.

The Rays’ home start Tuesday became a final day for deciding the status of Franco’s roster. On August 14, one day after the allegations emerged, the Rice family placed Franco on the restricted list for the remainder of their road trip, a decision that Rice said was mutually agreed upon with Franco. The final game of the road trip was on Saturday.

What is the importance of administrative leave and how is it done?

Administrative leave is an official step in baseball’s common policy regarding domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.

This policy is negotiated collectively between the League and the Association, and any designation on administrative leave may be contested and brought before the arbitration panel by a player. Therefore, the league has an incentive to move for furlough only if it feels the decision could come under scrutiny. A week ago the league had just begun its investigation.

A lot looks the same for Franco compared to the previous week. He remains on the restricted list, as he was transferred shortly after the accusations were made public. As was the case last week, Franco will continue to receive wages and time off.

The league and federation can agree to extend a player’s time on administrative leave an indefinite number of times. Before the league suspended Trevor Bauer for violating its domestic violence policy, the league and the league repeatedly extended the pitcher’s vacation time.

Technically, administrative leave is a minimum of seven days, but the league and federation can agree on different periods or arrangements. Any subsequent extension or modification will require the consent of both parties.

(Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

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