It's also a time for major league teams to evaluate the future of veteran players who have had subpar seasons.
Is a bad season an aberration for a player? Is a poor year a sign that a career is on downside?
Let's take a look at 25 players who have stumbled during the 2009 season and examine what their prospects are for a bounce-back season in 2010.
Vladimir Guerrero, Angels: Guerrero suffered injuries that curtailed his playing time early in the year. Since coming back the Angels DH has been les than spectacular, hitting .297 with 15 home runs. Guerrero is not the threat of year's past, but if healthy he can still hit with power. Guerrero can help a contender next season.
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: The Phils shortstop, hitting .247, never got untracked at the plate this year. The power is still there as Rollins hit 19 home runs. Rollins is an excellent player with lots of protection in the potent Philadelphia lineup. Expect a bounce-back season in 2010.
J.J. Hardy, Brewers: Hardy lost his job midseason to highly-touted rookie Alcides Escobar. Hardy's .226 batting average and lack of power (11 home runs) is alarming. Hardy will play elsewhere in 2010. A bounce-back season seems
Garrett Atkins, Rockies: This third baseman is only two years removed from a 100 RBI season. With the mergence of Ian Stewart, Atkins playing time was reduced significantly. Even though he is hitting .222 with 9 home runs and 45 RBI, Atkins can help a new team next season. The 29-year-old Atkins would be a good fit for the A's. Twins, or Giants.
Jermaine Dye, White Sox: Dye's power stats are there (25 home runs), but most of his production took place during the first half of the season. Word is Dye can't get around on the fastball. Seems like the beginning of the end for this player who's had a good major league career.
Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: Detroit is on the hook for Ordonez's $18 million dollar salary for 2010 as the outfielder's option vested this week. The power is gone (7 home runs and 40 RBI) and so are Ordonez's days as a force in the lineup. Ordonez is a very expensive extra outfielder.
David Ortiz, Red Sox: Big Papi got off to a horrible start at the plate for Boston this year. Ortiz's power returned (24 home runs), but the batting average settled around .230 for most of the year. Can't see any more productive seasons in Big Papi's future. The question is will Boston bring him back in 2010? If Ortiz doesn't play in Boston next year, it's hard to imagine another team picking him up.
Alex Rios, White Sox: Toronto essentially gave Rios to the White Sox for nothing. Chicago picked up the remainder of a very expensive contract. Rios has been just as bad, if not worse, in Chicago than he was in Toronto. Rios has problems with his swing. Would not be surprised if Rios' days as a productive hitter are behind him.
Yuniesky Betancourt, Royals: Betancourt showed promise as a young player with the Mariners. This shortstop is a wild swinger who rarely sees a pitch he doesn't like. The Royals won't have any more success than Seattle did in trying to hone Betancourt's game in the middle of the diamond.
Gil Meche, Royals: Meche signed a big contract with Kansas City as a free agent in 2007. The right-hander, when healthy, is an innings eater type pitcher. If the Royals will assume part of his remaining contract, Meche could be traded. I think he can fill a void on a team looking for a veteran pitcher, much like Carl Pavano did this year for Cleveland and Minnesota.
Gary Matthews, Angels: This outfielder has never lived up to his big contract in Los Angeles. He complains about not playing, yet doesn't produce (.238, 3 home runs) when he gets a chance. Matthews is not a helpful offensive player, although his defense is well above average. If the Angels could unload Matthews, they would without hesitation.
Jack Cust, Athletics: The likeable Cust hits home runs (22), walks (88) and strikes out (167) virtually at the same pace each year. At some point, the A's will turn the DH role over to one of their young, minor league power hitters. Cust makes too much money for the A's. If he asks for a raise in 2010, he likely will be non-tendered. Cust can help a club if used low (seventh) in the batting order.
Adrian Beltre, Mariners: Injuries have held Beltre back in 2009. The third baseman never seemed comfortable hitting in Seattle's spacious park after coming over from the Dodgers in 2005. As is the case with many American League players, Beltre -- only 30 years-old -- will be much more effective if he goes over to the NL in 2010.
B.J. Upton, Rays: The star of the 2008 playoffs had an awful season in 2009 (.231, 10 home runs and 43 RBI). This 25-year-old center fielder still has a tremendous upside and will be worth the gamble if Tampa decides Upton doesn't fit with their club. Injuries, as well as some attitude issues, held him back in 2010. A five-tool player doesn't come along too many times; I'd make the Rays a serious offer for Upton this winter.
Pat Burrell, Rays: Burrell was brought to Tampa from Philadelphia to fill the club's need against left-handed pitching. Burrell's days as an effective power hitter appear to be finished (.228 average, 14 home runs).
Vernon Wells, Blue Jays: Toronto couldn't find a taker for Wells in July because of his enormous salary. Wells is no longer a productive middle of the order hitter (.265, 14 home runs). A bounce-back season is unlikely.
Eric Byrnes, Diamondbacks: Byrnes has never been accused of not hustling on the field. Unfortunately, the outfielder has suffered leg and hand injuries the past two seasons. Byrnes projects as a fourth outfielder who can entertain the fans with his aggressive play. It's unlikely that Byrnes will ever recapture the magic he showed in 2006-07.
Chipper Jones, Braves: Chipper said if this season (.268, 16 home runs, 64 RBI) is an indication of what he is capable of achieving as a big league player, then he would retire in 2010. Jones has an upside, if healthy. Even though he has had an awful second half in 2009, he is worth the gamble in 2010.
Garret Anderson, Braves: Anderson is a very good hitter (.275, 12 home runs, 54 RBI) who lost his true power stroke while in Anaheim. Anderson's day as an every day player appear to be over.
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs: Chicago signed Soriano in 2007 with the hope that the player could be a 40-or-more home run slugger in Wrigley Field. Soriano hasn't been able to stay on the field and now, as a 33-year-old with bad knees, his future value is in doubt. If the Cubs could find a taker they would move Soriano in a flash. Soriano still has some productive at-bats ahead, but not like the old days.
Milton Bradley, Cubs: Not sure if there is a team that can cope with Bradley's negative ways. Bradley can hit from the right side, but has fallen off noticeably as a left-handed hitter. It will be interesting to see where he plays next season. Bradley is young enough (31) to help a club, but not as an everyday outfielder.
Rick Ankiel, Cardinals: Ankiel, a pitcher converted to an outfielder, has one of the most respected throwing arms in the game. Ankiel appears not to be in the Cards plans for 2010 (.233, 11 home runs, 88 strike outs). He has a chance to help another club in 2010 and is a candidate to recapture his power (25 home runs in 2008), under the right circumstances.
Jason Giambi, Rockies: Giambi's days as a full-time DH are over. The lefty can be a very productive hitter off the bench, a la Matt Stairs for the Phillies. When Giambi hits late in the game, the pressure is on the pitcher. Giambi will not swing unless he sees a strike, leading to many excellent RBI opportunities as he bats most often with runners on base. If Giambi will take a pay cut, there is a place for him in the game. If he chooses to retire, he will be remembered for his warm nature, among other things.
Russell Martin, Dodgers: Where did this 26-year-old's power go? In 2007, Martin hit 19 home runs. Iin 2008, he had 13 homers and he's followed that up with six home runs this year. The Dodgers are still waiting for the power to return. Is it the toll of catching full-time that hurt Martin? Did the pitchers spot a weakness? Doesn't seem likely that he will ever hit with the sock seen early in his career,
Chris Young, Diamondbacks: Strikeouts have plagued this outfielder since his first full major league season in 2007 (435 K's in 459 games). Yet, power and speed have been a huge part of his game. His home run totals have dropped from 32 to 13 to 6 over the past three years. Like B.J. Upton, the tools are there. If Arizona decides he is expendable, a team with patience that is looking for a five-tool player should jump at the chance to acquire him.
There are many variables to consider in determining a player's future worth? Is he through because of his age? Drug testing? Can't hit the fastball?
This winter, general managers throughout the game will weigh the variables and decide who deserves a shot with their club in 2010. This will be a tough winter of negotiations for players coming off sub-par years as teams look to go younger when filling their rosters.
Marty Lurie hosts ``Right Off The Bat,'' now in its 12th year, and ``Memories of the Game'' on KTRB 860 AM before A's games. His Web site is loveofthegameproductions.com and his e-mail is email@example.com.