Before he joined the Major Leagues, Wander Franco was one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays signed him as an international free agent in July 2017, just a few months after his 16th birthday. He made his Major League debut in 2021 as a 20-year-old, reaching base in 37 consecutive games during his rookie season.
The Rays were impressed by Franco’s potential. Five months after his debut, the team offered him a contract extension worth $182 million over 11 seasons — the richest contract in Rays’ history, which has generally not had a ton of large deals. The agreement also included a team option that would bump the total value of the contract to $223 million across 12 years. Franco’s play continued to improve, and he made his first All-Star appearance this season.
However, a TMZ report came out that Major League Baseball and a specialized group in the Dominican Republic are investigating Franco for a reported relationship with a minor. MLB insider Héctor Gómez said a source told him it is “very unlikely that Wander Franco will play in MLB again.”
If that prediction turns out to be correct, Franco has cost himself over $200 million in career earnings — atop any legal trouble he may find himself in.
Per Spotrac, between salary and signing bonuses, Franco earned $6 million in 2022 and was set to make $2 million this season. The bulk of his contract is backloaded; he’d make $25 million starting in 2028 throughout the remainder of the deal. The contract also included bonuses based on performance.
Amid these allegations, he probably won’t see up to $215 million of that contract.
The Dominican Republic attorney general said a minor filed a complaint against Franco. This woman is different than the woman who appeared on social media, which initially led to speculation about Franco’s alleged relationship.
The Rays placed Franco on the restricted list on Monday. He hasn’t played since Saturday, August 12. He’ll still be paid while he’s on the restricted list. That could be for several months while a division in Peravia (a Dominican province) that specializes in minors and gender violence investigates the allegations.
There’s still a lot to uncover with this situation, but it seems like the 22-year-old Franco has played his final Major League Baseball game. With a contract that would have paid him until he was 31 or 32, that’s a lot of money left on the table.