The Braves, who also received cash considerations in the deal, immediately designated Gonzalez for assignment after the veteran waived his no-trade clause since Atlanta already is set at first base with Freddie Freeman.
“This allows him the opportunity to go and find some playing time,” new Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of Gonzalez.
There also is the question of whether Kemp, who is owed about $43 million over the next two seasons, will even play for the Dodgers. He could again be traded as Los Angeles tries to further lower payroll after moving quickly to dump nearly $50 million in salary committed to Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy for 2018.
“I was very open and honest with him about what the future might hold,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters in a conference call Saturday. “It’s just too difficult to say, definitively, at this point.”
With the deal, Los Angeles, which had baseball’s highest payroll last season at $240 million, has gotten below the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. After five seasons on the wrong side of the threshold, the Dodgers were penalized 50 percent on every dollar spent above the luxury tax figure last season.
“This deal is a little more subtle than most,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a conference call Saturday. “Obviously, one of the main considerations in this deal was economic. But they’re part of the bigger picture, the longer-term plan. It’s a necessary, strategic part of moves yet to come.”
The deal made sense for the Braves, too, since the players they acquired all have expiring contracts.
Gonzalez, McCarthy and Kazmir were all set to enter the final years of their respective contracts in 2018. Gonzalez was set to make $22.36 million; Kazmir, $17.66 million; and McCarthy, $11.5 million.
“It puts us in an even greater financial position going forward and going into next offseason as well,” said Anthopoulos, who was hired from the Dodgers.
“Oh, I hadn’t noticed,” Friedman told reporters. “Is there a big free-agent class next winter?”
Kemp, 33, has two years remaining on his deal and will make $21.75 million in each of the next two seasons. He hit .276 with 19 home runs and 64 RBIs last season.
He returns to the Dodgers, where he played from 2006 to 2014 and hit 182 home runs, fourth-most in Los Angeles history.
A team source told The Athletic that the Braves moved Kemp, in part, to create an open spot in the lineup for top outfield prospect Ronald Acuna. He was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League and Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year.
“We expect Ronald Acuna to be a very good player for a very long time,” Anthopoulos said. “When he’s ready to go, we’re going to look to make room for him, and certainly a deal like this won’t hurt.”
The 35-year-old Gonzalez, who has 311 career home runs, helped the Dodgers win five straight National League West division titles after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox in August 2012. He was an All-Star in 2015 and led the NL in RBIs in 2014 but went on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back last season for the first time in his career.
He was usurped at first base by NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger. Gonzalez hit .242 in just 71 games in 2017 — his fewest since 2005, when he saw action in 43 games.
“My final decision was not based on playing time, as I had agreed to a limited bench role,” Gonzalez said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “It is a way to test the free agent market and see what opportunities are out there for me. … [The Dodgers] are giving me this opportunity to see if there is a better fit for me somewhere else.”
McCarthy went 6-4 with 72 strikeouts and a 3.98 ERA for the Dodgers last season, going on the disabled list three times with multiple injuries.
He was 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 29 starts over three seasons with Los Angeles. The 34-year-old right-hander missed most of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“He came back at the end of the year and was on the World Series roster because of how good he looked, how good his stuff was, up to 94 [mph], and he started throwing a slider that he just added at the end of the year,” Anthopoulos said. “I’m excited about him, think there is an upside to him.”
Kazmir, who has a 108-96 career record, did not play last season because of a hip injury. The 33-year-old left-hander went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts in 2016, his first with the Dodgers.
“I spoke to him, and he’s pretty encouraged and excited about the work he’s been able to do in the offseason, so we’re excited to get a look at him in camp,” Anthopoulos said. “If we can get him back and he can bounce back, there’s certainly some upside there.”
Culberson, 28, split last season between the Dodgers and Triple-A Oklahoma City. The utility man played 10 games during the team’s postseason run to the World Series. He is known for a pair of memorable homers — a game-ending homer against Colorado in the 2016 regular-season finale that clinched the NL West title and a shot in Game 2 of the World Series last season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.