The San Francisco Giants made a huge splash at 2011's trade deadline by acquiring Carlos Beltran. With six All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and a 60.8 career WAR, Beltran is undoubtedly a marquee name in 2012's free-agent class.
However, his age (he'll be 35 next summer) and injury history make a multi-year deal a risky proposition. Not to mention that he might be out of the Giants' price range.
Here are much cheaper alternatives to improve the Giants.
After trading for center fielder Melky Cabrera, the Giants should try to improve the rest of their outfield. Josh Willingham is one of the few bright spots in a weak market for corner outfielders.
As a member of the Oakland A's, Willingham smacked 29 homers and 98 RBI in 2011. He also posted an OPS+ of 121, matching his career average.
Willingham isn't a defensive dynamo, but his power would add much needed pop to the Giants' lineup.
Giants' 2B Freddy Sanchez is competent player when healthy. But, like Beltran, age and injuries are starting to be a concern.
Aaron Hill had a horrid beginning to 2011, severly hurting his market price. But he performed fantastically once being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, earning 1.7 WAR in just 33 games.
Hill has accounted for more than 5 WAR in two different seasons, and at age 29, should have a lot left in the tank. He projects to be a high value signing.
The San Francisco Giants are toying with the idea of making prospect Brandon Crawford their every day shortstop in 2012. While he has the reputation of being a good glove man, his offense was atrocious in his stint with the Giants last year.
Signing Clint Barmes to a one-year deal would be an extremely attractive option for San Francisco. Not only is Barmes is an excellent defender, registering 1.5 defensive WAR in 2011, he also has decent power for a SS.
He could provide insurance for the infield or start every day if Crawford bombs.
With Jonathan Sanchez now a Kansas City Royal, the Giants need a fifth starter. The organization may look to much maligned Barry Zito for the gig, but there are better options on the cheap.
Erik Bedard's career has been plagued by injury issues, but he's an electrifying pitcher when healthy—case in point, 10.9 SO/9 and 6.0 WAR. He showed some of his potential in 2011, despite a misleading 5-9 record.
At a bargain price, Bedard is a no risk, high reward proposition.