What to do with Wander Franco

Mark Brown is a fully credentialed Tampa Bay Rays media member. He covered the Arizona Diamondbacks through their postseason run in 2023, and looks forward to covering the Rays throughout the 2024 season. Save and follow us here for inside information, quotes, etc about the Rays!

ST. PETERSBURG – Talk about jeopardizing nearly $200 million.

Under the category of “why would he do this,” the Tampa Rays suspended-shortstop Wander Franco could forfeit a reported $174 million. That’s remaining from an original contract he signed with the Rays on Nov. 23, 2021. That deal was an 11-year contract for $182 million. At the time of the signing, that made Franco the youngest player in major league history to sign a deal worth more than $100 million.

Since, he’s put up strong numbers and was named to the 2023 American League All-Star team.

All slammed to a halt last summer and that’s when the Rays placed the 22-year-old on administrative leave in mid-August. The reason was the alleged contract Franco made with underage girls.

Considering he is married with two children, that behavior clearly placed his baseball career and lucrative contract at serious risk.  Now, Major League Baseball summoned Franco and his attorneys to meet with the Dominican Republic’s Specialized Prosecutors Office for Children and Adolescents on Dec. 28.

If Franco is found guilty of inappropriate conduct toward underage girls, Major League Baseball has the right to terminate the remainder of this contract. The agreement signed with the Rays would be declared “null and void” immediately.

That means Franco is at risk of losing more than $174 million. He signed through the 2032 season and is scheduled to earn between the years 2028 and 2023 an amount of $25,454,506 million in each of those years.

All of which puts fielder manager Kevin Cash in a quandary.

Should MLB find Franco guilty, and his contract terminated, he will likely never play in the majors again. In his stead, Cash needs to fill a huge offensive hole. After Franco was suspended by MLB last August and when the first allegations became known, Cash went with rookie Osleivis Basabe, a 23-year-old from Venezuela. In 94 games with Tampa, he hit .218 with one homer and knocked in 12 runs.

The move to Basabe was necessitated when veteran Taylor Walls underwent a surgical procedure to relieve pain from a labral tear. Though he is expected to be ready for spring training by mid-February, his health remains a concern.

Waiting to develop could be Carson Williams, who turns 21 this coming June 25. With only a short period at AAA Durham, Williams, out of San Diego, went 1-for-13 in limited playing time. He expected to be several seasons away from Tropicana Field.

At this point, the choice surrounding Franco appears to be clear.

If he is found guilty, his short career with the Rays ends in disgrace. If he exonerated, Cash would likely welcome him back. At the same time, Franco will likely remain under a defined microscope for the remainder of his major league playing days.

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