MLB makes independent Atlantic League its first 'partner league'

Major League Baseball is making the independent Atlantic League its first "partner league," a distinction awarded as the expiration nears for MLB's agreement with the affiliated National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.

On Wednesday, MLB said it will meet regularly with the Atlantic League to discuss joint marketing and promotional opportunities. The sides extended their agreement through 2023 to stage experiments in the Atlantic League, which tested an automated ball-strike system to call pitches in 2019 and has used other innovations such as limits on defensive shifts and mound visits, larger bases and shorter breaks between half-innings.

"The Atlantic League clubs and players have been great partners to us as we jointly test ways to make our game even more interesting and engaging to fans," Morgan Sword, MLB's executive vice president of baseball economics and operations, said in a statement.

MLB and the National Association have spent much of the past year in acrimonious negotiations for a new Professional Baseball Agreement to replace the deal that expires late this year. MLB proposed cutting guaranteed minor league affiliations from 160 to 120 and eliminating the National Association office in Florida in favor of operating the minors out of the commissioner's office in New York.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.