Carlos Beltran could well be back with the San Francisco Giants next season, given the team's apparent predilection for retaining midseason outfield acquisitions longer than is advisable. That. after all, is how they came to have both Cody Ross and Pat Burrell this year.
It sure seems unlikely, though, given San Francisco's relatively tight budget and other pressing needs entering 2012. More likely, Beltran will become the most attractive free-agent outfielder to change teams this winter.
In a season without an elite outfielder available, teams hoping to rebuild there going forward will need to get creative in their pursuit of Beltran or else seek out platoon guys and one-dimensional talents to fill those units.
The good news? Acquiring role players via free agency is often more efficient than going after the big names, anyway. The following 15 players make up the head of this offseason's outfield crop, for better and for worse.