Tampa Bay Rays Expected to Remove Wander Franco From Roster

The Tampa Bay Rays might never have Wander Franco in their uniform again. The shortstop was arrested this offseason in the Dominican Republic and is still facing charges related to an alleged relationship with a minor.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Rays are expected to remove him from the 40-man roster by Opening Day and place him on either the restricted list or administrative leave.

With him still facing possible jail time, the organization doesn’t seem interested in bringing him back.

In court documents obtained by The Athletic, Franco allegedly had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl and gave her mother 100,00 Dominican pesos ($1,785) per month to maintain it.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who reported on the story in early January, Franco is likely to be barred from entering the United States which puts his availability for the season at risk. Rosenthal said he spoke to two immigration attorneys who have worked with major-league players and clubs.

Franco has denied the allegations and Javad Khazaeli, a former prosecutor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who now works in private practice, told Rosenthal why it would be a bad idea for Franco to even try to enter the U.S.

“The likelihood he would come into the U.S., even if he had a valid visa that wasn’t revoked, is minimal,” said Khazaeli.

“To be honest, if I was his immigration attorney, I would tell him not to even try. Then he would open himself up to being detained at the border (by U.S. Customs and Border Protection) and being put into custody here until an administrative adjudication of these claims.”

Franco was once a promising infielder who the Rays believed in. They signed him to an 11-year deal worth $182 in 2021, the same year that he made his major league debut.

Rays to Remove Franco From Roster
Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays is expected to be removed from the 40-man roster by Opening Day.

Duane Burleson/Getty Images

He owns a career batting average of .282 over three seasons and was named an American League All-Star in 2023. He batted .281 that season with 17 home runs, 58 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases.

If Franco is unable to enter the country by Opening Day, then he won’t get paid. According to Rosenthal, If Franco is unable to enter the U.S. by Opening Day, the Rays would have no choice but to place him on the restricted list, preventing him from getting paid. A conviction in the Dominican Republic would be an aggravated felony under U.S. immigration law and result in a permanent ban from the U.S., the immigration attorneys said.

In that scenario, added Rosenthal, Franco would forfeit the remaining $174 million on the 11-year, $182 million deal he signed in Nov. 2021. He would not be paid because he could not fulfill the obligations of his contract.