MLB Rumors: Umpires Association Agrees To Testing & Development Of Automated Strike Zone In New Deal
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Umpires Association (MLBUA) jointly announced a tentative five-year labor agreement through the 2024 regular season. The deal is subject to the ratification of all 30 teams and Major League Umpires, which is expected to occur in January 2020.

It’s a positive development for MLB amid growing unrest over the expiring Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) between MLB and Minor League teams. It runs through the conclusion of the 2020 season, and MiLB and MLB would need to agree to a new PBA and have it ratified before the start of the 2021 Minor League season.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has proposed sweeping changes to the sport, including the elimination of more than 40 Minor League affiliates. Manfred recently doubled down on his stance and essentially threatened to walk away from MiLB.

Meanwhile, matters with the umpires are much more amicable as they agreed to assist MLB with the possible implementation of an electronic strike zone, per Ben Walker and Ronald Blum of the Associated Press:

Umpires agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball in the development and testing of an automated ball-strike system as part of a five-year labor contract announced Saturday, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The Major League Baseball Umpires Association also agreed to cooperate and assist if Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to utilize the system at the major league level. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because those details of the deal, which is subject to ratification by both sides, had not been announced.

As part of the labor contract, the sides agreed to raises in compensation and retirement benefits along with provisions to allow earlier retirement.

MLB began testing robot umpires in Arizona Fall League last year and rolled out the system in the independent Atlantic League after their All-Star Game and throughout the second half of the season. The automatic strike zone will be expanded in the Minors during the 2020 season.

Multiple Los Angeles Dodgers players, including Rich Hill and Chris Taylor have been outspoken about the potential rule changes being installed for Major League games.

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