Major League Baseball is looking into social media allegations that claim 22-year-old shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays has been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a minor. Wander Franco was absent from the Tampa Bay Rays' 9-2 loss to Cleveland on Sunday.
The Rays issued a statement acknowledging that they were aware of the social media posts and mentioned that MLB is investigating the matter. Franco, 22, also did not accompany his fellow teammates on the Tampa Bay Rays' team plane as they headed to San Francisco for their forthcoming series against the Giants which is set to start on Monday evening, according to ESPN.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the posts, which appeared to have been deleted on X (previously Twitter), claimed that Franco was having an illicit relationship with a minor on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Rays have stated that Major League Baseball (MLB) is actively investigating both the social media posts and the related allegations.
"During today's game, we were made aware of the social media posts that are circulating regarding Wander Franco," the Rays said in a statement. "We take the situation seriously and are in close contact with Major League Baseball as it conducts its due diligence."
On Sunday, Franco started the game in the Rays' dugout but left during the fifth inning.
The exact content of the social media posts was not disclosed in detail by Tampa Bay. The Spanish-language posts were created on Saturday night and gained widespread attention on Sunday.
Tampa Bay signed the 22-year-old to a massive $182 million, 11-year contract in November 2021, which includes a team option for 2033 that could potentially total $223 million.
On the day of the game against the Guardians, a promotional event at Tropicana Field featured the "Wander Franco Snapback Hat" for fans aged 14 and under.
Following the game, Rays manager Kevin Cash was asked if there were any reasons beyond a regular day off for Franco's absence from the game. Cash's response was, "No. I'm aware of the speculation, and I'm not going to comment any further on that. The day off was because (it was) a day off."
Career in Danger
Earlier in late June, Franco was benched for two games by the Rays due to his reactions to frustrating situations and his occasional lack of teamwork.
Franco, who made it to the AL All-Star team this season, boasts a batting average of .281 along with 17 home runs, 58 RBIs, and a successful 30 out of 40 stolen base attempts across 112 games.
On Friday, Franco achieved a significant milestone by hitting his first walk-off home run for the Rays against the Guardians. He shared with reporters his dedication to maintaining his performance at its peak for the betterment of his team.
"I'll never forget it. It was good. We never keep our head down," he said. "We kept it up. We kept the faith.
"I'm just going out there and just playing my game. Just showing off my talent the best I can, and thank god I'm able to show that."
Despite his recent achievements, Franco continued to play on Saturday in the Rays' 6-5 victory over the Guardians. However, merely two days after a memorable performance, he now confronts significant questions that could have far-reaching consequences for his career.
Franco's journey has roots in the Dominican Republic, where he left school after the sixth grade to concentrate on pursuing a career in baseball. Remarkably, he was signed by the Rays at the young age of 16.
In April 2022, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Franco had entered married life and was anticipating the birth of their second child, another son. He reportedly has a tattoo of their first son on his left arm.