No matter how you slice it, things don't look great for the Giants' offense next year. The most optimistic outlooks project for slightly above-average run production, counting on healthy years from guys like Freddy Sanchez as well as bouncebacks from Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, and Angel Pagan. Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Nate Schierholtz will have to hit well in starting or platoon roles as well. If things go very wrong, it's possible we could have the same trouble scoring runs in 2012 as we did in 2011.
Outside of shortstop, which seems settled with Crawford, the biggest hole remains the outfield - outside of Melky Cabrera, there doesn't seem to be a consensus on who will be a consistent starter. Schierholtz hit well in somewhat limited playing time last year, and Belt could be given an expanded role in LF if he hits the ground running and Huff manages to hold down first. Pagan's a bit of a wild card, with obvious potential on both sides of the ball but an injury-plagued and generally ineffective 2011 campaign. And despite the essential guarantee that Cabrera will receive a starting role, it's not a given that he will actually hit.
Things brings me to the thesis: the Giants ought to take a run at J.D. Drew. According to agent Scott Boras, Drew has not retired, and will play in 2012 if it's the right fit. Looking at Drew-related rumors on MLBTR, one sees an almost complete lack of interest - a post from this Sunday is the first one to even mention him in over a month, and he's received a total of four minor notes since the end of July.
There's an obvious reason for this: Drew had a pretty bad 2011 (link to Fangraphs stats page). Injuries to his neck, fingers, and left shoulder, occasionally simultaneous, limited him to 81 games. He didn't do much in those 81 games either - a .275 wOBA is not a pretty sight for a right fielder. So that's the downside: basically Mark DeRosa, bad when he's not hurt.
But the upside here is pretty damned good. From 1999 through 2010, Drew produced two-plus wins a season, with a high of nine in 2004. So the consistency and potential for greatness is there. Over his career, he's averaged a BB/K of nearly 1, with a BB% of 14% and an ISO of .212; the power and patience have been there. He has one below-average defensive season, a -0.9 mark in 2002. He has a career .377 wOBA, Bill James predicts a .336 mark in 2012.
Ah, but things come back to the injuries, and Drew has had a few. Though he managed to play 135+ games in 2009-2010, 109 in 2008, 72 in 2005, 100 in 2003, 109 in 2001, and of course the 81 in 2011 do not paint the picture of someone who can stay healthy through a season. Entering his age-36 season, it's unlikely that will change.
Still, this guy looks like someone we should be throwing a couple million dollars at. We have a gaping hole in our outfield that we're not sure how to fix. Schierholtz is almost certainly better off the bench than starting, particularly if it pushes Justin Christian back to AAA. He seems to have no suitors, and certainly none who are willing to offer a starting role, nor does it seem his price will go down - if he doesn't get an offer he likes, he's made enough money to just retire. There is no way we can afford a Fielder-type bat, but we might be able to squeeze an extra $3M into the budget (of course, a lot of people would take that+Affeldt+Lopez and scream Beltran, again link to stats page, and they wouldn't be wrong).
I should make it clear: Drew is not a guy we ought to be counting on. We should not sign him and claim right field is fixed. This is an Aubrey Huff-type move - in fact, given position, defensive ability, and consistency and peak of play, Drew is a better bet than Huff was before 2010. We have no money, we need a hitter, and Drew is the type of player who could give you 2-4 wins for a very small commitment.
For the pro-Beltran people, I'll just leave this:
Games played (PAs) [WAR]
Drew: 357 (1371) 
Beltran: 287 (1210) [8.5]
Drew: 220 (832) [2.1]
Beltran: 206 (853) [5.5]
simply to illustrate that the difference is not as large as one might imagine.