Phillies need two outfield starters in 2022, but who will they be able to get? And when?

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The Phillies didn't address either of their starting outfield openings before the MLB owners instituted a lockout early Thursday morning.

While it's unclear how long the lockout will last – the previous work stoppage, a strike in August 1994, wiped out the final seven weeks of the regular season and playoffs – what can we expect Philadelphia president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to do once player movement is permitted again?

Let's say Dombrowski lands 28-year-old free agent Kyle Schwarber, who would fill three needs as a left fielder with power capable of batting leadoff. Schwarber declined a mutual option with the Red Sox that would have paid him $11.5 million in 2022, so let's project a three-year contract worth $57 million ($19M per season).

How would Dombrowski upgrade the subpar center-field position, which was primarily handled by Odubel Herrera and Travis Jankowski in '21, as well as Roman Quinn and Luke Williams? Of those four, only Williams is still on the 40-man roster and he's probably not ready for more than a part-time role at this point.

Outfielder Kyle Schwarber of the Red Sox follows the flight of a fly ball against the White Sox.
Outfielder Kyle Schwarber of the Red Sox follows the flight of a fly ball against the White Sox.

Assuming the MLB luxury tax threshold remains at $210 million, the Phillies would only be about $10 million below that number if they add Schwarber for $19 million per.

It's unclear if Dombrowski will be permitted to exceed that figure, which the Phils stayed under last year. If that remains the case, he'll have to be creative to find a quality center fielder.

Prior to the lockout, Dombrowski reportedly had conversations with the Rays about acquiring 31-year-old Kevin Kiermaier, who is a terrific defensive player with a .249 career batting average. He's under contract for $12 million in 2022, with a $13 million club option for '23, but his average annual value (AAV) is "only" $8.9 million. AAV is used to determine the luxury tax.

Assuming nothing changes, Tampa Bay would likely want a prospect or two for Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove selection, after sending all-star third baseman Joey Wendle to the Marlins for 2019 first-rounder Kameron Misner.

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Securing Schwarber and Kiermaier would pretty much exhaust all of the cap space below the luxury tax with pre-arbitration players such as 2021 pitching sensation Ranger Suarez, relievers Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod, third baseman Alec Bohm and others yet to sign.

Even if Bohm bounces back from a subpar second MLB season, the Phils could use help at shortstop and third base beyond signing utility infielder Johan Camargo for one year and $1.4 million, but might not be able to upgrade there if they spend money on left and center fielders.

There's nobody inhouse that appears to be a viable option in center. Adam Haseley and former No. 1 overall selection Mickey Moniak haven't produced in the majors and nobody in the minor leagues looks prepared for a significant role next season.

If the owners agree to increase the 2022 tax threshold to $240 million, which the players want but doesn't seem to be a sure thing, Dombrowski would have some room to maneuver and could re-sign the pre-arbitration guys and perhaps add another bullpen piece without reaching that figure, even if he acquires Schwarber and Kiermaier.

Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove recipient, catches a fly ball in front of the wall.
Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove recipient, catches a fly ball in front of the wall.

If not, trying to close the gap on the World Series champion Braves and remain ahead of the $235 million payroll Mets in the National League East is probably going to mean having to pay the luxury tax and/or being more successful with modest one-year signings than Dombrowski was in 2021.

And it's possible the work stoppage could drag on until right before spring training or later, which would result in an abbreviated amount of time to upgrade the roster with plenty of teams pursuing Schwarber and Kiermaier.

Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes.com; @TomMoorePhilly

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Philadelphia Phillies need two outfield starters in 2022